On October 31, 2003, soul surfer Bethany Hamilton, just thirteen, went for a morning swim on her surf board with her friend, Alana Blanchard. Alana’s father and brother joined them. This was at Tunnel’s beach in Kauai.
There were a lot of turtles in the water that morning, this much they knew. What they didn’t know, was what was about to happen to them. Right around 7:30 AM, Bethany was swimming on her surfboard with her left arm hanging right along side of her friend Alana. That’s when a fourteen foot Tiger Shark came up right alongside of her, and bit off her left arm. Alana’s father saved Bethany’s life by applying a tourniquet, and rushed her to the hospital. Shd'd lost around 60% of her blood supply.
Bethany grew up in Hawaii, at home in the ocean. She was from a family of surfers, professionals and national competitors. From the time that she was able to walk, Bethany had devoted her life to two passions: surfing and serving her higher power, God. She spent the majority of her time in the ocean.
While Bethany was adapting to living with one arm, the challenges that she faced in doing the mundane things that she took for granted before, were very unsettling to her. Not to mention, it was difficult for her to surf the big waves without an adaptable board. She was unhappy with the prosthetic arm because it didn’t do anything other than get in her way.
The turmoil was largely over a month and a half later, after Bethany put this in the hands of her higher power. Her family was able to get her adaptable surfboards with a handle on them for her right hand. She hired personal trainers for overall whole body workouts to gain balance, strength and stamina. She adapted to doing everything with her right hand and even her mouth. To get by, she gave surfing lessons, wrote her autobiography, wrote a documentary about herself and did TV shows. The movie, "Soul Surfer", was taken from Bethany’s autobiography. She went back to competing. She became an ordained minister. She also teaches contestants how to surf on the television show "The Biggest Loser".
Had she not lost her arm, Bethany would not have experienced all of this. Had she stopped surfing, she would not have what she has now. The difference is, before the shark attack, Bethany thought her life was completely about surfing and serving God. After she lost her left arm, she learned that life is about relationships, people, and life first. But surfing is her passion, and her vehicle to reach others.
Bethany is so inspirational to me because she used her loss to honor life and relationships while enhancing the sport of surfing as a soul surfer. I don’t think that we are asked to change what we are. I think we are asked to do something with what we are, instead. Things happen to us in life. What we do about them, is living.