Bethany Hamilton: Not even a shark could stop her

Bethany Hamilton is one of the most famous surfers in the world and has been since she was only 13. Bethany started surfing before she could walk and by the time she was 8 she was competing. She is a true water baby and has always lived and breathed the waves of Hawaii. By the age of 8, Rip Curl had become her first sponsor. However, her level of success is surprising to many as a shark attack at the age of 13 left her unsure as to whether she would ever surf again.

On Halloween of 2003 Bethany was surfing with a friend and her father when she was attacked by a 14 foot tiger shark. She saw a grey flash, felt a tug and heavy pressure on her arm, and by the time she looked down the water was red and her arm, along with a chunk of her board, was gone. She paddled to shore where her friend’s father fashioned a tourniquet from his surf leash that saved her life. Without it she would have died, as even with this quick thinking she lost around 60% of her blood volume.

With her arm taken Bethany wasn’t sure she would be able to surf again. With only one arm she doesn’t have the same power to paddle, her balance is affected as is her ability to duck dive. Within three weeks of the attack however she was already back on the waves, figuring out how to adjust. Her dad fashioned a handle for her board that is similar to the ones on a life guard’s board which she can hold on to when duck diving, and when paddling she kicks with her feet also.

In 2004 she competed in he NSSA competitions, just one year after her attack and won and ESPY for best come back athlete. As recently as 2016 she was nominated for yet another ESPY: Best female athlete with a disability. To many people’s surprise she asked for her name to be withdrawn from the category. She felt that, seeing as she doesn’t compete in a disabled category, winning that aware would have felt like “rewinding back to square one”, with said square being the day she was attacked. To Bethany the fact that she surfs with one arm is irrelevant. She focuses on her performance, and the fact that she has competed in competitions  and placed higher than women such as Stephanie Gilmore (six-time world champion) is testament to her skill. Whilst she does not deny that she has overcome some unique challenges, she states that the biggest one has been overcoming how other people see her and what they expect from her.