Bethany Hamilton

By: Ximena Paredes

Have you ever wondered how someone can surf without an arm? Bethany Hamilton can. She proved nothing is impossible. You might ask who is Bethany Hamilton. Bethany Meilani Hamilton Dirks is an American professional surfer who survived a 2003 shark attack in which her left arm was bitten off, but she returned and was victorious in professional surfing.
Bethany Hamilton was born on February 8, 1990 on Lihue, Hawaii. Hamilton is the youngest of five siblings. Raised in a surfing family, along with older brothers Noah and Tim, Hamilton learned to handle the waves at an early age. She began competitive surfing at the age of eight, and by the age of nine she had earned her first sponsorship. She won her first competition on 1998. She won the competition of Rell Sun Menehune on 1998, and the Open Women's division of the NSSA on 2002. By the age of 12 she was already competing on national competitions. Hamilton was home-schooled from the age of ten and went back to school for middle school. By that time she had both arms.
On October 31, 2003, Hamilton, age thirteen that time, went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai, with her best friend Alana Blanchard, Alana's father, and brother Byron. Around 7:30 a.m., Hamilton was lying on her surfboard with her left arm in the water, when a tiger shark attacked her, bitting her left arm just below the shoulder. The Blanchards helped paddle her back to shore. She was rushed to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. By the time she arrived there she had lost over 60% of her blood. Her father, who was scheduled to have knee surgery that morning, was already there, but Bethany took his place in the operating room. She spent a week in recovery before being released. During interviews, she confirmed that she felt normal when she was bitten and did not feel much pain from the bite at the moment of the disaster. It was a miracle she was alive.

After the trauma of the incident, Hamilton was determined to return to surfing. Three weeks after the incident, she returned to her board. Instantly, she adopted a custome made board that was longer and thicker and had a handle for her right arm, making it easier to paddle. She didn´t learned how to surf with one hand, from one instant to another. It took Hamilton several days of practice to learn how to surf with one hand. She also learned how to kick more to make up for the loss of his left arm. She practiced and practiced, but didn´t gave up. On January 10, 2004, she entered a major competition.

When the news broke out of the shark attack, a family of fishermen led by Ralph Young presented to investigators photos of a 14-foot-long tiger shark they had caught and killed about one mile from the attack site. It had surfboard pieces in its mouth. When measurements of its mouth were compared with those of Hamilton's broken board, it matched. In late 2004, the police officially confirmed that it was the one that attacked her.

Since the attack, she has appeared as a guest on numerous television shows. In 2004 she won the ESPY Award for Best Comeback Athlete and also received the Courage Teen Choice Award. On April 8, 2011, a movie film Soul Surfer, based on her 2004 book, was released in theaters. Today, Hamilton is an inspiration for many of us. She proved nothing is impossible.