She was only 13 when she lost her arm in a shark attack, but what she did with her life afterwards will amaze you
She was a surfing prodigy and a native of Hawaii, who lost her left arm in a shark attack when she was only 13 years old. Born on February 8, 1990, she is an American professional surfer, known for surviving the shark attack and for overcoming the injury and ultimately returning to the professional surfing. She is none other than Bethany Hamilton, who has many achievements under her belt.
It was on October 31, 2003, when Bethany went for morning surfing along the Tunnels Beach, Kauai, with her best friend Alana Blanchard and her family. Around 7:30 am, with numerous turtles in the area, she was lying on her surfboard with her left arm dangling in the water. And then a 14 feet tiger shark attacked her, severing her left arm just below the shoulder. The Blanchards helped paddle her back to shore. She was rushed to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. By the time she arrived at the hospital, she had lost over 60% of her blood and was in hypovolemic shock. Her father, who was scheduled to have knee surgery that morning, was already there, but she took his place in the operating room. She spent a week in recovery before being released.
Despite the trauma, it was her strong determination which actually let her come back to her board within one month of the incident. Initially, she adopted a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker than standard and had a handle for her right arm, making it easier to paddle, and she learned to kick more to make up for the loss of her left arm. After teaching herself to surf with one arm, on January 10, 2004, she entered a major competition. She now uses standard competitive performance short-boards.
She won many National and International championships, since her childhood days. Few among them are NSSA National Helping Kids Champion, 2nd place at ASP World Junior Championships and most recently she won the Surf n Sea Pipeline Women’s Pro competition. Since the attack, she has been a guest on numerous television shows. She also won the ESPY Award for Best Comeback athlete and also received the Courage Teen Choice Award.
I’ve learned that life is lot like surfing. When you get caught in the impact zone, you need to get right back up, because you never know what’s over the next wave. And if you have faith, anything is possible, anything at all – Bethany Hamilton
She wrote about her motivational story and experience in her autobiography ‘Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board’. Based on the book and additional interviews, a feature film Soul Surfer was also released in 2011.
Her return to the professional surfing and winning so many competitions afterwards, that too after loosing one arm can be described as a true act of bravery. Bethany will be always remembered more as an inspirational role model rather than just a shark attack victim.