The sun was golden, the sea was blue, and it was a perfect day for Bethany
Hamilton to hit the waves.
The 13-year-old had been surfing since she was eight. Friends and family considered her someone who was born to surf.
As Bethany swam through the crystal-clear water, something gripped her arm. A creature scary and strong tried to pull her under.
She had come face-to-face with every surfer’s nightmare: a shark attack. A 14-foot tiger shark was chewing on her arm like a “piece of steak.” With her other arm, a terrified Bethany clung to her surfboard for dear life. In minutes, the attack was over. The predator had fled the scene of the crime.
After the vicious attack, Bethany was strangely calm. None of her friends had realized what happened until she told them. At first, they thought it was a joke. They hadn’t seen her splash or cry out. Then they saw the blood in the water and realized her arm had been ripped off.
Her friends made a tourniquet from a surfboard leash and rushed her 200 yards to the shore. Bethany had lost 60 percent of her blood by the time she reached the hospital. She had lost her arm, but the doctors saved her life.
Shark attacks are rare. Yet surfers account for more than half of their victims. The savagery of a shark bite is life changing. It’s enough to prevent a person from ever going back into the water.
This wasn’t the case with Bethany. A little over three weeks later, she met her fears head on and went surfing again. The shark which had attacked Bethany had been killed by local fisherman. Yet there was always the risk of another shark attack. For Bethany, though, it was a simple choice. She said, “If I don’t get back on my board. I’ll be in a bad mood forever.”
Bethany took the plunge and two years later won a national surfing contest. She went on to become a big name in the world of surfing. She also founded her own non-profit foundation called Friends of Bethany. Its mission is to encourage other people in life who have lost a limb to achieve their goals.
Bethany is a prime example of someone who practices what she preaches. She refused to let her fears handicap her or get in the way of chasing her dreams.