By Rachel Burt
(Edited by Naima Karp)
Over five years ago on the beach of North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii, I was lucky enough to watch a surf competition featuring Bethany Hamilton, a pro-surfer, role model and source of inspiration to many, who almost lost of her life for the love of surfing yet continued the sport. Born into a family of surfers on February 8, 1990, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, Bethany began surfing at a young age. At the age of thirteen, on October 31, 2003, a 14-foot tiger shark attacked Hamilton while she was surfing off Kauai’s North Shore. The attack left Bethany with a severed left arm. After losing over 60% of her blood, and making it through several surgeries without infection, Bethany was on her way to recovery with an unbelievably positive attitude. Lifeguards and doctors believe her strong water sense and faith in God helped get her through the traumatic ordeal. Miraculously, just one month after the attack, Bethany returned to the water to continue her pursuit of becoming a professional surfer.
In 2007, Bethany realized her dream and turned pro. Bethany has since participated in numerous ASP and World Tour Events. Since losing her arm, Bethany’s story has been told in hundreds of media outlets and she has been recognized with numerous awards, public appearances, and various speaking engagements.
In 2011, in a strange turn of events, I happened to be in Hawaii when the major motion picture “Soul Picture,” Hamilton’s biopic, was released. The theater was packed with fans, friends and surfers alike of this legendary woman. I recommend this movie to everyone to get a glimpse of life in Hawaii, from the unique perspective of a teenaged, female soul surfer. This is a link to a short film on Hamilton speaking for a Walking on Water Presentation, for those hooked by her story.
In the interview on the movie, Hamilton was asked if she was happy with the films overall receptions and box-office turnout. Her response that she hoped it would make a difference in the lives of young kids, and her eternal gratitude to the Soul Surfer team for their hard work. When asked how she felt about her celebrity status, the surfer responded that she definitely didn’t feel like a celebrity; thought she felt more noticed, she would always see herself as just a surfer.
Nowadays, Bethany is accomplishing a variety of unique efforts, such as volunteering at orphanages, teaching surfing, hosting an adventure TV show, and continuing to share and inspire with her special story. Check out the film, which was praised by critics, and research a little about this inspiring Soul Surfer, so it’ll possibly inspire you to reach out to those less fortunate than you and stay strong everyday! The story is a superb motivational one for each of us to push to be the best version of ourselves, and starting with Hamilton’s biopic is a great starting point.