A Woman Loses an Arm Due to a Shark Attack, But Preserves Her Love for the Ocean and Her Body
Bethany Hamilton stands out as an iconic figure in the world of professional sports. Her remarkable journey began at the tender age of 3 when she first took to the waves, and now, at 33, she still competes with unwavering determination. Bethany epitomizes resilience and fortitude, displaying remarkable courage by returning to the sea without fear, even after a harrowing encounter with a shark. Despite losing an arm due to a shark attack, Bethany’s determination never waned. It didn’t hinder her pursuit of her passions, finding the love of her life, and ultimately becoming a mother to three children.
“I wouldn’t change what happened to me.”
When Bethany was 13, a tiger shark attacked her, resulting in the loss of her left arm. However, just one month after the incident, Bethany displayed remarkable resilience by returning to her surfboard and embarking on the path to becoming a national surf champion.
Relearning how to maintain her balance on the board proved to be a challenging endeavor for Bethany, but she refused to relinquish her passion. She made the decision not to use a prosthetic with flexible joints, recognizing that it wouldn’t significantly aid her cause. To enhance her control over the board, her father, Tom, ingeniously crafted a special handle to help prevent her from falling while paddling out to ride the waves.
In 2004, Bethany published her autobiography, titled Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. Seven years later, in 2011, this inspiring book was adapted into the movie Soul Surfer.
At one point, she was asked if she would choose to prevent the shark attack if given the chance, to which she responded, “I wouldn’t change what happened to me because then I wouldn’t have this chance, in front of all of you, to embrace more people than I ever could have with two arms.”
“I’m happy with the way that I look.”
Bethany’s profound passion for surfing propelled her back into her training swiftly and offered her valuable life insights. She once shared, “I’ve learned that life is a lot like surfing. When you get caught in the impact zone, you need to get right back up because you never know what’s over the next wave... and if you have faith, anything is possible, anything at all.”
Yet, she also acknowledged the societal pressures that can impact individuals, particularly in the realm of appearance. The cultural fixation on achieving the perfect body had its influence on Bethany. In response, she endeavored to shift her focus toward recognizing genuine beauty, emphasizing qualities like “kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, determination, honesty, loveliness, just being a good friend, and all of the true good that you have to offer to this world.” She believed that the celebration of physical perfection often receives excessive attention.
Now, Bethany is a confident woman that knows and loves her own body and helps others having faith in themselves, “I’m happy with the way that I look, and I don’t need an arm to be beautiful. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t like about my body or my limitations, I choose to be grateful for the remarkable body that I have.”
But it hasn’t always been like this. As a teenager, she was worried about not looking like others, and she was shy about her arm, especially when she was on the beach. Years later, she realized that all of us are unique, and she’s chosen a path of gratitude for what she has. And here’s a piece of advice she follows every day, “I encourage you to find routines, foods and exercises that keep your body healthy and make you feel good. Just take small steps at a time and don’t focus on trying to be ‘skinny’ or looking a certain way, but on taking care of yourself.”
“I choose him every day.”
Bethany’s journey towards success and self-acceptance was filled with numerous challenges, and she found steadfast support from her husband, Adam Dirks. Their meeting was facilitated by mutual friends, and their relationship began almost immediately. Bethany fondly recalls, “The first thing we did was jump off a cliff together! And you could say it was love at first cliff jump.”
In 2013, they sealed their commitment in Hawaii, and Bethany shared a heartfelt message on her social media, saying, “I met an amazing man, now we will spend the rest of our lives together, and I’m so excited! I love you Adam!”
They had Tobias, in 2015, Wesley, in 2018, and Micah in 2021. In 2018, the documentary film Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable was released and talks about the happy life, marriage, and motherhood of Bethany.
Hamilton loves sharing the secrets of her happy marriage, publishing her thoughts on social media, “I choose him every day. I believe love can be a choice beyond just a ‘falling in love feeling’. Faithfulness, commitment and forgiveness lead to beautiful things.”
“Motherhood is better than I even dreamed.”
Bethany expressed that her sons have been her greatest teachers, showing her the depth of love and the true power of this emotion. She is willing to make any sacrifice for them, stating, “I have 3 lil’ guys at home now and there is never a dull moment! Motherhood is better than I even dreamed!”
Throughout her life, Bethany has faced a multitude of challenges, but she acknowledges that one of the most demanding aspects is managing the everyday responsibilities of raising her boys. She openly admits that it’s no simple task to get her sons to develop a love for the water. Since surfing is an integral part of Bethany’s life, she often takes her boys on the board with her. She notes, “You can’t just expect every kid to fall in love with the ocean at the age of 5 and having no fear.”
She doesn’t keep their children from going to the ocean, on the contrary, she teaches them to be strong and never give up, “I’m so excited to tell my son about my accident, as he will see how I’m not a typical mom. I want to show that a shark might have bitten off my arm, but that doesn’t stop you in life. It just makes you even more determined and strong.”
Motherhood undeniably had an impact on her surfing. Bethany recounted that her initial experience in the ocean after giving birth to Micah was challenging. She shared, “I was so out of shape paddling, so I was missing so many waves, and just standing up on the board, I felt extra slow and like I could barely do it. But, I was just so happy to be in the ocean and feel the sunshine.”
After each pregnancy, she never pushed herself, but instead, she gave her body time to recover slowly, eating good food and having enough sleep. It seems that she knows how to find the perfect balance between maternity and surfing. She devotes enough time to the things that matter.
Bethany opened up about the sources of genuine happiness in her life, saying, “My family, the ocean, and surfing, quality time with friends, delicious healthy food, and of course my faith” bring her the most joy. When she grapples with fear or uncertainty, she reminds herself, “I don’t need easy, I just need possible.”
While some people must grapple with the process of accepting their altered appearance following injuries, others are faced with congenital features of appearance. Take, for instance, a girl with a unique facial condition who has managed to forge a successful career and become a source of inspiration to many.