If you’ve ever seen the movie Soul Surfer, you’ve at least heard the name Bethany Hamilton. But who is she?
How accurate is Hollywood’s representation of this woman?
Let’s take a look at who Bethany Hamilton is and how she became a household name.
Who Is Bethany Hamilton?
Bethany Hamilton, whose full name is Bethany Meilani Hamilton, was born in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii on February 8, 1990.
As a native Hawaiian, she began surfing at an early age—she was just 8 years old when she caught her first wave.
Hamilton wasn’t just a fan of the sport, though.
She was also phenomenally good at it. In fact, she earned her first sponsorship at the young age of 9 years old.
In 1999, Rip Curl Surfboards noticed Bethany’s talent and offered to sponsor her; not long after, Angel Eyewear and Gallaz Shoes followed suit.
Bethany was only 10 years old.
Bethany Hamilton’s future certainly looked bright. However, on Halloween in 2003, a 13-year-old Bethany went for a surf with her friend Alana Blanchard.
The unthinkable happened when a 14-foot tiger shark attacked Bethany, severing her arm below the shoulder.
Friend Alana, her father, and her brother helped Bethany back to shore where she was transported to the hospital.
Upon arrival, Hamilton had lost 60% of her blood and required an operation.
Incidentally, Hamilton’s father was already present at the hospital for a surgical procedure of his own. Bethany took his place.
Bethany Hamilton: Not Giving Up
The shark attack at Tunnels Beach, Kauai was not going to stop Bethany from surfing. Just a month later, Hamilton was back on the water.
As you’d imagine, the loss of her arm required the young woman to “re-learn” how to balance and surf.
Even so, it hadn’t been a year following the tiger shark attack before Bethany competed in and won a national surfing title. She went pro two years later.
Hamilton used a modified surfboard with a handle installed by her father.
Eventually, and with practice, she was able once again to use boards just like any other competitor.
where is Bethany Hamilton today?
This remarkable young woman is now married to a youth pastor; they met through mutual friends. Her first child, Tobias, was born on June 1, 2015.
Another son, Wesley, was welcomed to the family in March of 2018.
The family still live in Kuaui, Hawaii, and Bethany is still very much involved in the surfing community.
In addition to her time on the water, Hamilton has written nine biographical, devotional, and motivational books.
She tours the country giving motivational speeches to surfers and non-surfers alike.
And, of course, you’re likely familiar with Soul Surfer and Unstoppable, two movies based on the life of Bethany Hamilton.
Bethany Hamilton Quotes
The story of Bethany Hamilton’s survival and her ability to overcome her injury with grace is not just a little inspiring. It’s no surprise that Hamilton now gives motivational speeches, and her inspirational quotes reflect her character. Here are some of our favorites:
“Being present means living your actual life, accepting it for what it is, and making the absolute most of it. Cut out the constant barrage of distractions so you can be truly present with the people and things that matter most.”
Fear is something that can really hold us all back from different things in life. It’s important to notice what your fears are and try to conquer them.
Gratitude is a theme in my life. Appreciation is how I was able to quickly shift my mindset after losing my arm. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t like about my body or my limitations, I choose to be grateful for the remarkable body that I have.
I am so stoked on my life. I have been through a lot and have learned a lot. I feel very blessed with everything that I’m able to do—especially being able to surf. I try to keep it simple and just be the best person I can be, and if it makes a difference in other people’s lives, that’s great!
I think sharks are beautiful creatures, and I don’t think we should stop going into the ocean because of them. You drive down the road, and you get in an accident, but most people end up driving down the road again. Surfing is you going into their home, and it’s just a natural part of life.“
Bethany Hamilton Today
If you want to learn more about Bethany Hamilton’s inspiring story, what better way than to seek the source? Hamilton offers Unstoppable Life Courses online.
The course subject matter ranges from titles like “Optimize Your Health” to “Deepen Your Faith;” Hamilton is a religious individual and credits her faith for her survival and subsequent success.
Interested in seeing the surfboard from that fateful October day? Visit the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California.
The board is on display there, and you can view the 15 inch wide, 8 inch deep gash left by the shark that took Bethany’s arm. Visitors to the museum describe the surfboard as both “terrifying” and “humbling.”
Of course, you can also learn more about Ms. Hamilton’s story by watching both Soul Surfer and Unstoppable.
These works are slightly dramatized, but you will come away from the films with a good idea of the impact this shark attack had on the teenager’s life and the resiliency the young woman displayed.
Summary: Soul Surfer and Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton is a household name, particularly within the surfing community.
The professional surfer overcame what was very much a near-death experience, and refused to give up her passion.
The story of Bethany Hamilton is an inspiring one, and Hamilton is proof that you can overcome almost anything with the right attitude and persistence.