Bethany Hamilton - Soul Surfer

Posted by Kohana on 3/31/2010

I remember when I was in Kauai several years ago, watching the local news and hearing that a young 13-year-old local surfer, Bethany Hamilton, had been attacked by a shark. She had survived but lost one of her arms.

On October 31 2003, Bethany Hamilton went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach in Kauai with her friend Alana Blanchard, and Alana Blanchard's father and brother. Around 7:30 a.m., she was lying sideways on her surfboard with her left arm dangling in the water, when a 15ft tiger shark attacked her, ripping her left arm off just below the shoulder. If the shark had bitten two inches further in, the attack would have been fatal. Bethany lost almost 60% of her blood that morning. Her friends helped paddle her back to shore, and fashioned a tourniquet out of a surfboard leash around what was left of her arm before rushing her to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. Her father was supposed to have a knee surgery that morning but she took his place in the operating room. She then spent six more days in recovery at the hospital."

Despite the trauma of the incident, Bethany was determined to return to surfing. Just three weeks after the incident, she returned to her board and went surfing again. Initially, she adopted a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker which made it easier to paddle. She has observed that she has to kick a lot more to make up for the loss of her left arm. After teaching herself to surf with one arm, she has again begun surfing competitively. She is now back to using competitive performance short-boards again and is the in the top 12 best women surfers in the world.

In 2004, MTV Books published Bethany's book, Soul Surfer, a True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, which describes her ordeal. Bethany's story is also told in the 2007 short subject documentary film, Heart of a Soul Surfer The film addresses her courage in the aftermath of the shark attack, and follows her quest for spiritual meaning.

Now the movie Soul Surfer has just finished filming, starring Dennis Quaid, AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Kevin Sorbo, Lorraine Nicholson and Carrie Underwood.

Check out this video on YouTube where Bethany talks about her experience.

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