Take yourself back to your teenage years. You’re doing the activity that you love the most, whether it’s playing a sport, practicing a musical instrument, painting, doing photography, dancing, or anything that makes your heart sing. Now imagine doing this activity when tragedy strikes. You are attacked by something out of a horror movie or your personal worst nightmare. This is what happened to Bethany Hamilton. At 13 years old, Hamilton was attacked by a shark while doing what she loved most: surfing.
Hamilton was a surfer on the rise: her career was just taking off when she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark during a morning surf on Halloween, 2003. The attack left Hamilton without a left arm, seemingly ruining her career as a future surf star. Hamilton did not let the terrifying incident stop her from success, though. Hamilton rose above the attack and was back on the water only a month later.
Hamilton had to re-teach herself how to surf using only one arm, a difficult battle with a sport that heavily relies on perfect balance. She started using custom made surfboards that were a bit longer and thicker to help her maintain balance. She has since transitioned to standard competitive performance boards, defying the odds once again.
Her resilience paid off. One year later, Hamilton earned her first national title. By 2007, Hamilton achieved her dream of becoming a professional surfer. In 2004, Hamilton told her story in a New York Times best selling autobiography Soul Surfer A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board which was followed by a film in 2011 called Soul Surfer.
Hamilton not only continued competing as a professional surfer, placing in the top five of over 10 events and placing first on almost half of them, she also stayed in the limelight through numerous television appearances including The Biggest Loser, 20/20, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and The Tonight Show. Hamilton and her husband participated in The Amazing Race and won third place. Hamilton has also racked up a few awards including the ESPY Award for Best Comeback Athlete in 2004 and the Courage Teen Choice Award.