HANALEI, Kaua'i — Kaua'i surfer Bethany Hamilton was a shy 13-year-old in 2003 when a tiger shark attack took her left arm and flung her into the national media spotlight.It's great to see someone, especially someone so young, deal successfully with adversity and make the most out of a difficult situation like this. She is blessed to have her faith and a supportive family, but no doubt this was a difficult journey for her. Good for her, and I hope she achieves much success!
Today, Bethany has lost her braces, gained composure before a camera and sprouted to a willowy 5 feet 11.
She's a solid contender in international pro surfing contests and presides — with her family's help — over a thriving cottage industry that includes books, videos, inspirational speaking engagements and cosmetics.
Bethany's story of turning a tragic loss into a gain has inspired thousands of her fans, especially teenage girls.
"Just by me surfing with one arm, it's given a lot of people hope (as they) are going through tough times in life," she said.
People admire Bethany for "getting up and doing it after such a heavy blow," said Russell Lewis, her surfing coach for the past 10 years. "But it's not just surfing. She's 18 and she's really enjoying life. She has no hangups about her arm. She's adapted to it really quickly. And it pretty much inspires everyone around her."
And as for the surfing, Bethany's ranked 10th out of the more than 100 women competing in the Association of Surfing Professionals' qualifying contests, which some call the minor leagues of pro surfing. The top five at the end of the season will move up to the ASP women's world tour.
Lewis said Bethany is "an extraordinary athlete and works to be the very, very best she can without any excuses."
"She's got the biggest heart," he said. "She'll out-paddle girls with two arms. It should be impossible, but she does it."
In addition to surfing twice a day most days, Bethany also bikes, runs, does strength training and jiu-jitsu. Her mornings start with Bible and devotional reading and she attends church and Bible study regularly.
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