Bethany Hamilton is an inspiration to all who reads her story. It begins with a gradual rise, with her whole world right before her, ready to conquer it through a brilliant career in surfing and then, in a twist of fate, she was attacked by a shark and lost her left arm. Her world came crashing right before her – her dreams, visions, career – everything she had ever wanted was gone.
But as she laid on the hospital, a rare faith began to grow within her and in less than no time, she was back on her feet with a message – a message of survival and determination to rise above her tragedies and live her dreams. And even beyond that, reach out to those who had given up and help them find what they had lost.
Bethany Hamilton’s Biography
Although she is simply known as Bethany Hamilton, she was born as Bethany Meilani Hamilton-Dirks on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The surfing pro was born to Thomas and Cherilyn Hamilton on the 8th of February 1990. Surfing is a thing that runs in the family and all her family members, including her two older brothers, Noah and Timmy Hamilton are involved in the sport.
She showed a keen interest in the water sport as a five-year-old when she would go with her family to the beach and soon her parents, with additional assistance from her brothers, began to teach her how to glide with the water waves. But as expected, it was not only surfing that her parents passed on to her at that age. As Christians, the tenets of the Christian faith was also inculcated into young Bethany and as she grew up, so did her faith and believe in God also grow.
She began her basic education in a popular elementary school in the community where she lived but was withdrawn from public schooling in 6th grade. From then on – up to high school – Bethany was schooled at home and only rounded off her studies at Port Richmond High School.
Besides the championships she participated in as a kid (of which she always trumped all the contestants), Bethany Hamilton took part in her first professionally organized competition at age 8. It was called the Rell Sunn Menehune Surfing Championships which took place in Hawaii. Needless to say, she won all the board divisions.
It was a steady rise for the blonde surfer from then on. She continued in her victories at several surfing tournaments and competitions. Bethany also got sponsorship deals from Rip Curl and Tim Carroll Surfboards.
Shark Attack Episode
Her surfing story was all straight-forward until 2003 when she was thirteen years old. An event occurred that would alter the direction of her life – for the better. Bethany and her friend’s family (her friend, Alana Blanchard, her friend’s father Holt, and brother, Byron) decided to go surfing in the early hours of October 31, 2003, at Tunnels Beach on Kauai’s North Shore. And there it was, as Bethany was lying on her board in the water with her left hand submerged in the water, a 14-foot tiger shark came for the kill and chopped off her left hand from just a little below the shoulder.
She was immediately rushed to the Wilcox Memorial Hospital where she was operated upon having already lost so much blood (Bethany’s father, Thomas Hamilton was scheduled for a knee surgery that fateful day in the same hospital, so she probably took his place on the surgeon’s table).
Even though the doctors initially wrote her off saying she had a very thin survival chance, the courageous, faith-filled, and determined teenage Hamilton was out of the hospital in just a little over three weeks. She was not just out of the hospital, the very undeterred Bethany Hamilton was back to surfing. She initially eased her way back to the sports she loved so much with a custom-made board but soon ditched it for the standard surfing board.
Determined not the let her experience get the better part of her, Bethany participated in a major surfing competition just 3 months after the attack. She has since written an autobiography which chronicles all her experiences and her amazing speed in recovery. The book, written in 2004 and titled Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board was a tremendous success and became a No. 1 New York Times best-seller.
The positive reviews the book attracted transformed Bethany into an instant celebrity. She appeared on several TV shows such as “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Good Morning America,” “20/20,”, among so many others. The book was acted into a movie in 2011 with the title Soul Surfer and it featured Dennis Quaid, Anna Sophia Robb, and Helen Hunt.
Family Life – Husband, Baby
Bethany is happily married to Adam Dirks, who she met through their mutual friends. They met in early 2012 and one year afterward Dirks, who is a youth pastor, proposed to Hamilton and she agreed to marry him. Later that year, on August 18, 2013, the young lovers were married in the presence of their family, friends, and well-wishers. Their marriage is blessed with two sons – their first son, Tobias, was born in 2015 while their second baby boy, Wesley, came in March 2018.
Other Facts About Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton also played soccer, hockey, and paintball in grade school.
If you visit the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California you will see the surfboard that Bethany Hamilton was using the day of the attack with a part of it bitten off.
In addition to TV shows, Bethany Hamilton has also appeared in top American magazines including Time and People magazine.
Her miraculous recovery from the shark attack earned her the Courage Teen Choice Award and the ESPY Award for Best Comeback Athlete in 2004.
The shark that attacked her has been killed. Some fishermen came forward when the news of her attack spread and showed pictures of a shark they had just killed and it had few pieces of the surfboard in its mouth.
She has written other books which include Soul Surfer Devotions, Body and Soul, Ask Bethany: FAQs: Surfing, Faith and Friends, Soul Surfer Bible, Rise Above: A 90-Day Devotional, etc.