Bethany Hamilton, born February 8th, 1990 from Hawaii is an American professional surfer. She is an inspiration to many. It was the end of October, 2003. Bethany was out surfing with her best friend Alana Blanchard and Alana’s father and brother. The two girls were 13 years old. At around 7:30 am, Bethany was lying on her surfboard, her arm dangling in the water when a 14-15 foot tiger shark attacked her. The shark bit off her left arm right below the shoulder. With the help of the Blanchards, Bethany was rushed to the Wilcox Memorial Hospital. By the time she reached the hospital, she had already lost 60% of her blood and was suffering from hypovolaemic shock. Her father who was in knee surgery at the time was already in the hospital. Bethany took his place in the operating room and doctor proceeded with stitching up the wound immediately. Being a professional athlete, she was able to cope with the blood loss and her recovery lasted a week until she was finally let out of the hospital.
A fisherman named Ralph Young conducted a search for the tiger shark which bit off Bethany’s arm. In late 2004, the tiger shark was caught, bite marks were compared to the one on Hamilton’s surfboard and it is confirmed by the police that this was the shark which ran away with the 13 year old’s arm.
Despite all the trauma of this tragic incident, Bethany was determined to return to surfing. Less than a month after the the incident, Hamilton returned to her board and adopted a custom made board which was longer, slightly thicker and had a handle for her right arm, making it easier to paddle. She was in the water day and night and was determined to surf again. Her hard work paid off in January, 2004 when she entered a major competition and placed fifth in the NSSA National Competition. The next year, she entered the NSSA Nationals again and this time, placed first despite the disadvantages she had of having only one arm. During this whole time, she said that all she had to do was have faith and everything will work out, and it did!.
Her story inspired many, in fact, MTV books published Bethany’s book “Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family and Fighting to Get Back on the Board” Also, a feature film “Soul Surfer” was released based around her book. She even won the Courage Teen Choice Award and the ESPY Award for the Best Comeback Athlete
The surfboard she was riding the day she was attacked is displayed at the California Surf Museum. Since her attack, she has been recognised and appeared on numerous television shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, etc.
Despite all odds, Bethany proved that no matter what difficulties you face in life, never give up and always stay positive.
Image from Flickr by Kanaka Menehune