Bethany Hamilton is an inspiration to all who read her story. She begins with a gradual ascent, with her whole world right in front of 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 collapsed just before her – her dreams, her visions, her career – everything she had ever wanted was gone.
But when she was hospitalized, a rare faith began to grow in her, and in 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 beyond that, to reach out to those who had given up and help them find what they had lost.
Bethany Hamilton’s Biography
Although she is known simply as Bethany Hamilton, she was born as Bethany Meilani Hamilton-Dirks on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The professional surfer was born on February 8, 1990, the daughter of Thomas and Cherilyn Hamilton. Surfing is a family affair, and all of her family members, including her two older brothers Noah and Timmy Hamilton, are involved in the sport.
As a five-year-old, she showed a keen interest in water sports when she went to the beach with her family, and soon her parents, with additional support from her brothers, began teaching her to glide on the water waves. But as expected, it wasn’t just surfing that her parents passed on to her at this age. As a Christian, young Bethany was also taught the teachings of the Christian faith, and as she grew up, her faith and belief in God grew as well.
She began her basic education in a popular elementary school in the community where she lived but was taken out of public school in grade 6. From then on – until high school – Bethany was taught at home and completed her studies only at Port Richmond High School.
In addition to the championships she competed in as a child (in which she always outdid all participants), Bethany Hamilton entered her first professionally organized competition at the age of 8. It was called the “Rell Sunn Menehune Surfing Championships” and took place in Hawaii. Needless to say, she won all the board divisions.
From then on it was a steady climb for the blonde surfer. She continued her victories in several surfing tournaments and competitions. Bethany also received sponsorship contracts from Rip Curl and Tim Carroll Surfboards.
Shark Attack Episode
Her surfing history was completely uncomplicated until 2003 when she was thirteen years old. An event occurred that would change the direction of her life – for the better. Bethany and her friend’s family (her friend Alana Blanchard, her friend Holt’s father, and her brother Byron) decided to go surfing at Tunnels Beach on the north coast of Kauai in the early morning hours of October 31, 2003. And there it was, as Bethany was lying on her board in the water while her left hand was submerged in the water, a 14-foot tiger shark came down and chopped off her left hand just below her shoulder.
She was immediately taken to Wilcox Memorial Hospital for surgery after she had already lost so much blood (Bethany’s father, Thomas Hamilton, was scheduled for knee surgery at the same hospital on that fateful day, so she probably took his place on the operating table).
Although the doctors initially wrote her off on the grounds that her chances of survival were very slim, the brave, devout, and determined teenager Hamilton was released from the hospital after just over three weeks. Not only was she discharged from the hospital, but the very intrepid Bethany Hamilton returned to surfing. At first, she made her way back to the sport she loved so much easier with a custom made board, but soon gave up on the standard surfboard.
Determined not to be overwhelmed by her experience, Bethany Hamilton entered a major surf competition just three months after the attack. Since then, she has written an autobiography that captures all her experiences and her amazing speed of recovery. The book was written in 2004 and is entitled Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board was a huge success and became the No. 1 bestseller in the New York Times.
The positive reviews the book received immediately made Bethany a celebrity. She appeared on several television shows, such as “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, “Good Morning America”, “20/20” and many others. The book was made into a 2011 movie called Soul Surfer, starring Dennis Quaid, Anna Sophia Robb, and Helen Hunt.
Family Life – Husband, Baby
Bethany is happily married to Adam Dirks, whom she met through their mutual friends. They met in early 2012, and a year later 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 little boy, Wesley, was born in March 2018.
Other Facts About Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton also played soccer, field hockey, and paintball in elementary school.
If you visit the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California, you will see the surfboard that Bethany Hamilton used on the day of the attack, part of which was bitten off.
In addition to television broadcasts, Bethany Hamilton 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 was killed. Some fishermen came forward when news of her attack spread and showed pictures of a shark they had just killed with only a few pieces of the surfboard in its mouth.
She has written other books, including Soul Surfer Devotions, Body and Soul, Ask Bethany: FAQs: Surfing, Faith and Friends, Soul Surfer Bible, Rise Above: A 90-Day Devotional, etc.