VIDEO: Bethany Hamilton short documentary by - This Iz My Story * 2024
VIDEO: Bethany Hamilton short documentary by - This Iz My Story * 2024

American professional surfer, author, and motivational speaker 

Bethany Meilani Hamilton was born on February 8, 1990, to Tom and Cheri Hamilton in Lihue, Hawaii. She has two older brothers, Noah and Timothy. After learning how to surf at the age of three, Hamilton began surfing competitively at the age of eight and gained her first sponsorship by age ten. Hamilton was home-schooled from sixth grade through high school by her mother, a housewife, while her father was a waiter at a town café.

Today is an American professional surfer and writer who survived a 2003 shark attack in which her left arm was bitten off and who ultimately returned to 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, which was adapted into the 2011 feature film, Soul Surfer, in which she attributes her strength to her Christian faith. Hamilton was also the subject of a 2018 documentary, Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable, which discusses her marriage to Adam Dirks and how marriage and motherhood have affected her professional surfing career.

In January 2023, Bethany Hamilton announced that she would boycott all World Surf League events following their decision to allow transgender women to compete in the female category provided they maintain a testosterone level below 5nmol/L for 12 months prior. Hamilton questioned whether hormone levels were a fair and accurate assessment of sex, stating that transgender athletes should have a separate division created for them. She said that transgender women have a biological advantage that females surfers do not, stating, “We are seeing glimpses of male-bodied dominance in women’s sports like running, swimming and others.” Hamilton said that she believes that many of the women currently on tour agree with her but are too afraid of being ostracized to speak out.

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Shark attack

Hamilton lost her arm to a shark while surfing when she was 13 years old. She served as an inspiration to people when she returned to surfing shortly after the attack. On October 31, 2003, Hamilton, age 13 at the time, went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai, in shark-infested waters, with her best friend, Alana Blanchard, as well as Alana’s father and brother.

While Hamilton was lying on her surfboard stomach-down and talking with Alana, a 14-foot-long (4.3 m) tiger shark attacked her. It swiftly bit off her left arm, which she had been dangling in the water, just below the shoulder. The Blanchards helped paddle Hamilton back to shore, then Alana’s father fashioned a tourniquet out of a rash guard and wrapped it around the stump of her arm. Hamilton was rushed to Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

By the time she arrived there, she had lost over 60% of her blood and was in hypovolemic shock. Hamilton’s father, who was scheduled to have knee surgery that same morning, was already there, but she took his place in the operating room with the same doctor. During subsequent media interviews, Hamilton confirmed that she felt normal when she was bitten and did not feel much pain from the bite, but felt numb on the way to the hospital.

Despite the trauma of the incident, Hamilton was determined to return to surfing and did so a month later. Initially, Hamilton adopted a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker than standard and had a handle for her right arm, making it easier to paddle, and she learned to kick more to make up for the loss of her left arm.

After Hamilton taught herself to surf with one arm, she returned to surfing on November 26, 2003, just 26 days after the attack, and entered her first major competition on January 10, 2004. She now uses standard competitive performance short-boards. The shark-bitten surfboard that she was riding during the attack, as well as the swimsuit she was wearing, a gift from ocean photographer Aaron Chang, are on display at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California.

Her story is an example for others

Since the attack, Hamilton has appeared as a guest on numerous television shows. Her manager, Roy “Dutch” Hofstetter, who went on to produce the film Soul Surfer, managed her rise through the media from shark attack victim to inspirational role model.

The television shows she has appeared on include The Amazing Race, The Biggest Loser20/20Good Morning AmericaInside EditionThe Oprah Winfrey ShowThe Ellen DeGeneres ShowThe Today ShowThe Tonight Show and Dude Perfect, as well as in the magazines PeopleTime, and American Girl. Additionally, Hamilton was the cover story in the first issue of NiNe magazine.

Hamilton has participated in multiple public speaking events and is “motivating audiences worldwide to live their life with more tenacity, courage, and faith”.

In 2004, Hamilton won the ESPY Award for Best Comeback Athlete and also received the Courage Teen Choice Award. In 2004, MTV Books published Hamilton’s book, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, which describes her ordeal. Hamilton’s story is also told in the 2007 short subject documentary film Heart of a Soul Surfer. Described as a “faith-based documentary”, the film addresses her devout Christianity and the courage and faith in Jesus Christ in the aftermath of the shark attack and follows her quest for spiritual meaning.

In 2009, Hamilton was a contestant on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? and won $25,000. In 2010, she appeared on an episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

In 2011, Hamilton appeared in a video for the Christian organization I Am Second, telling of her struggle after the shark attack and how she trusted in God to get her through it. In 2011, a feature film Soul Surfer, based on her 2004 book, was released in theaters. Hamilton was portrayed by actress AnnaSophia Robb. She performed all the one-armed surfing stunts in it.

Hamilton also appeared on the TLC series 19 Kids and Counting the same year, in the episode titled “Duggars Under the Sea”, when the Duggar family visited her in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hamilton plays herself in the film Dolphin Tale 2, which revolves around the baby dolphin Hope’s story. She and her husband, Adam Dirks, competed as a team on the 25th season of The Amazing Race, finishing in third place. It premiered in 2014 on CBS.

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is set to tell the story of Hamilton’s transition from childhood to motherhood. “From chasing her toddler to chasing the biggest waves. Bethany is continuously rewriting the rules on being a fearless athlete and brings a new meaning to the phrase, ‘Surf Like a Girl’”. In early 2012, Hamilton met youth minister Adam Dirks through mutual friends. They became engaged in 2013. The couple got married on August 18, 2013, at an estate on Kauai’s north shore, near where Hamilton grew up. They have three sons. Along with being a professional surfer, she now offers mentorship classes on faith, healing, personal health, and relationships.

Hamilton was featured in a short film by RipCurl titled Master and Apprentice alongside young female surfer Erin Brooks.

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