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Bethany Meilani Hamilton (born February 8, 1990), daughter of Thomas and Cherilyn Hamilton, is an American surfer. She is known for surviving a shark attack in which she lost her left arm, and for overcoming the serious and debilitating injury to return to professional surfing. She wrote about her experience in the 2004 biography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. In April 2011, the feature film Soul Surfer was released, based on the book and additional interviews.
With dreams of a career as a surfer, Hamilton began competing seriously at the age of eight. In February 2000, she placed 1st in the "11-under girls", 1st in the "15-under girls," and 2nd in the "12-under girls" division at the Volcom Puffer Fish contest. She picked up a sponsor, Rip Curl, which aided her with her plans of becoming a professional surfer. Bethany is of Scottish heritage.
Shark attack and recoveryOn October 31, 2003, Hamilton went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai with friend Alana Blanchard along with Blanchard's father and brother. Around 7:30 a.m., with numerous turtles in the area, she was lying sideways on her surfboard with her left arm dangling in the water, when a 14 ft (4.3 m) tiger shark attacked her, ripping her left arm off just below the shoulder. If the shark had bitten two inches further in, the attack would have been fatal. She lost over 60% of her blood. Her friends helped paddle her back to shore, and fashioned a tourniquet out of a surfboard leash around what was left of her arm before rushing her to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. Her father was supposed to have knee surgery that morning but she took his place in the operating room. She then spent seven more days in recovery at the hospital.
Despite the trauma of the incident, Hamilton was determined to return to surfing. Less than one month after the incident, she returned to her board and went surfing again. Initially, she adopted a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker, which made it easier to paddle. She has observed that she has to kick a lot more to make up for the loss of her left arm. After teaching herself to surf with one arm, she has again begun surfing competitively. She is now back to using competitive performance short-boards again.
In July 2004, Hamilton won the Best Comeback Athlete ESPY Award. She was also presented with a special "courage award" at the 2004 Teen Choice Awards.
In 2005, with one arm, Hamilton took 1st place in the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) National Championships, a goal she had been trying to achieve since before the shark attack. In 2008, she began competing full-time on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS). In her first competition against many of the world's best women surfers, she finished 2nd.
MediaSince the attack, she has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show and The Tonight Show, as well as in magazines People, Time and American Girl. Additionally, she was the cover story in the premier issue of nine magazine.
In 2004, MTV Books published Hamilton's book, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board (ISBN 0-7434-9922-0), which describes her ordeal. Her story is also told in the 2007 short subject documentary film, Heart of a Soul Surfer, directed by Becky Baumgartner. Described as a "faith-based documentary", the film addresses Hamilton's courage in the aftermath of the shark attack, and follows her quest for spiritual meaning.
On August 7, 2009, Hamilton won $25,000 on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?. She was stuck on a third grade grammar question involving articles.
On May 16, 2010, she appeared on an episode of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. In March 2011, Bethany did a video for the Christian website "I am Second" telling about her struggle after the shark attack and how she trusted in God to get her through it.
Lihue, Hawaii, USA
Claim to Fame
2004 Autobiography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board
Her One Arm
Timmy Hamilton, Noah Hamilton
Bethany Meilani Hamilton-Dirks (born February 8, 1990) is an American professional surfer who survived a 2003 shark attack in which her left arm was bitten off, but ultimately returned to—and was victorious in—professional surfing. She wrote about her experience in the 2004 autobiography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. In April 2011, the feature film Soul Surfer was released; it was based on the book and additional interviews. She has appeared on many television shows since the loss of her arm.
Full Name at Birth
Bethany Meilani Hamilton
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Tobias Dirks (son)
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