If you’ve spent any time reading about surfing, you’ve likely encountered Bethany Hamilton. A titanic voice within the Hawaiian surfing community, Hamilton is known for her excellent competition record, distinct surf style, and—most notably—for surviving a devastating shark attack in 2003.
The attack happened when Hamilton was just thirteen years old; she was out for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach in Kauai with her best friend, Alana Blanchard. At around 7:30 in the morning, Hamilton took a short break from the waves, instead lying on her surfboard, her left arm dangling into the water. A fourteen-foot-long tiger shark attacked, severing her left arm just below the shoulder. Upon reaching the shore, Hamilton was rushed to a nearby hospital; by the time she arrived, she had lost over 60% of her blood and was in hypovolemic shock.
Coincidentally, Hamilton’s father was scheduled to have knee surgery that morning–he was already at the hospital when she and her friend arrived. Hamilton spent three weeks in recovery before being released. Later, the attacking shark was caught and killed; in 2004, the police officially confirmed the match.
Despite the traumatic attack, Hamilton returned to surfing just one week after her hospital release. She has since won several surfing competitions and athletic awards and has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, and The Tonight Show. Just a year after the attack, Hamilton published her story, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. Now twenty-eight years old, Hamilton is an accomplished athlete and activist.
Photo by Troy Williams.