“Soul Surfer” by Bethany Hamilton
“That’s all it took: a split second,” reflects Bethany Hamilton. “I felt a lot of pressure and a couple of lightning-fast tugs. I couldn’t make out any of the details, but I knew that the huge jaws of a fifteen-foot tiger shark covered the top of my board and my left arm.”
On October 31, 2003 at Tunnels Beach on Kauai, Hawaii, 13-year old Bethany was surfing with her friend Alana when she was attacked by a 15-foot tiger shark that bit off her left arm and a huge chunk of her surfboard.
“Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board” (2004) by teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, is an autobiographical account of her shark attack experience – and her determination to return to surfing.
Humble. Undaunted. Those are the two words that jumped to mind when I read Bethany’s words. Her autobiography is conversational (it’s based on conversations with her pastor Rick Bundschuh and writer Sheryl Beck) and stream-of-conscious. I found it amazing that a young teen would have the confidence, courage, and commitment to face her fears and return to something she loves.
Bethany really comes alive, living in a small town, an athlete, a prankster, and a person of faith. She was homeschooled, loves surfing, art, and seashells, and considers herself ordinary. “I don’t think much about it or worry about how I look with one arm.”
Her family is her number one fans. Her parents, Tom Hamilton and Cheri Lynch, are dedicated surfers who inspired her love of surfing. Her older brothers Noah and Timmy challenged her, pushed her to try things she might not have done on her own, and cheered her on. Noah became her promoter and helped her get her sponsor, Rip Curl.
Even before she got out of the hospital, Bethany was talking about surfing again. She credits her strength and endurance to her relationship with God and the love and encouragement of her family and friends. “I want to use my story as a way to tell people about God’s story,” she says. And she wrote her story to highlight her faith, family, and supporters.
“Surfing is a force that moves you body and soul,” she explains. “It’s hard for me to describe the joy I felt after I stood up and rode a wave for the first time after the attack. I was incredibly thankful and happy inside. The tiny bit of doubt that would sometimes tell me ‘You’ll never surf again’ was gone in one wave!”
Bethany’s words to live by: “Life is full of what-ifs. You can’t let it hold you back.”
Learn what Bethany has been up to over the past 10 years, read her blog, and find out about the “Soul Surfer” movie on Bethany’s website, http://bethanyhamilton.com.