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Getting To Know Bethany Hamilton

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bethany hamilton

In the dictionary when you look up the word 'courageous' the caption reads, not deterred by danger or pain; brave. When I hear the name Bethany Hamilton I think of a 'one armed surfing wonder'. A courageous water woman that above all odds has battled for her life and in the very next breath paddled back out. Now as a professional surfer, Christian, philanthropist, and healthy lifestyle advocate, Bethany continues to touch and inspire lives globally. Bethany regularly comes to Australia sharing her surfing, faith and hope with all that encounter her.

For all of you that haven't seen Bethany's movie 'Soul Surfer' its the true story about being attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark, the shark bit off her left arm and seemed to end her career as a rising surf star. The movie tells Bethany's story of survival after losing more than 60% of her blood and undergoing several major surgeries. Bethany began her recovery with an unbelievably positive attitude and miraculously just one month after the attack Bethany returned to the water. Just over a year later she won her first National title. In the words of Bethany, "The whole experience has changed my life... in that it has given me a great platform to share my strength and be a role model for young people all over the world."

Bethany realised her dream and turned pro in 2007. Bethany has since participated in numerous Association of Surfing Professional World Tour Events with her major highlight being a second place finish in the ASP 2009 World Junior Championships. SurfSister's Kelly Powell took the opportunity to find out more about one of surfing’s most inspirational ladies. When asked what she is up to, Bethany replied "I'm getting ready to go to Honolulu to surf pipe and then back to Australia. Just getting back on tour and wanting to charge some sick waves."

Q & A With Bethany Hamilton,

Questions by Kelly Powell

Can you tell us what your life was like growing up and how did you get hooked on surfing?

Growing up in Hawaii, I pretty much lived to surf. I was born into a family of surfers so it was all I knew. I was home-schooled so I could spend more time catching waves. At the age of eight I entered my first surf competition and was hooked from there.

Your strength of mind is a clear advantage when it comes to competitive surfing, but have you ever considered that not having the power of both arms may put you at a disadvantage in comparison to your competitors?

Surfing is very different from a lot of other sports, because there's so much arm movement, and having to paddle fast, and position yourself properly. For me, I really have to focus and think through my heat and study the lineup. I really don't think of it as having any kind of advantage. If anything, it can still hold me back in certain waves. But once you're up on the board, and as long as I get two good waves, I'm good. The girls I compete against, we're all good friends; so once we're on land, we don't talk much about the competition or who has advantages.

At any point did you think that your surfing career would be over?

2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Lord has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  This verse to me is really powerful because I know that God has given us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. When we start to fear and not keep our eyes on the Lord; that is when we can almost become paralyzed in whatever we are doing. In my life and the situations that I have been in, like learning to surf with one arm; I was fearful I wouldn’t be able to do it. As soon as I gave it to the Lord and went out there and tried it, I could do it! I think that in whatever situation you are in, each of us can overcome our fears and are able to deal with things.

So where's your career heading in 2012?

In 2012 I am looking to spend more time focusing on my surfing and competing.  Hoping to get amazing waves and maybe a few good surf trips in. There are a lot of opportunities on the horizon so I am just taking my time to see what fits best for this year. 

Beyond you career as a professional surfer, you are well known for your humanitarian efforts. As a result of exposure to numerous plights, what is the key universal lesson that you have learnt?

One thing I have realized is that everyone needs to be a little less self-centered (selfish) and a little more others-centered. We get so consumed in our own life with the things we have going on; work, school, sports, etc. And we forget the value in considering others more important than ourselves, and to putting their interests before our own.

Where will you be focusing your efforts next?

Obesity. It's an epidemic that's taking over and it leads to a lot of other diseases. I want to encourage the youth of America to eat healthier and exercise. A lot of schools are taking out PE, which is awful because it's like taking away a big part of a child's health. If you're healthy, life can be so much more adventurous, fun and successful.

We know that you're an advocate of healthy eating, so what's the typical day for a soul surfer?

I like to wake up, have a healthy smoothie or fresh green juice, check the surf and go out where it’s good. I have a very extensive work out regimen too, so I’m always staying active. I also make sure to have plenty of time to have fun with my friends when I am home.

Can you share with us your most recent memorable surfing experience?

In May I went to Tahiti with my brother Tim. I got some pretty fun waves down there-not too heavy, just really fun. Got to paddle into some waves at Teahupoo and get more comfortable with the line-up. I also went on a Rip Curl Search trip to Indonesia with my friends Alana Blanchard, Pauline Ado, and Tyler Wright. We scored. It was one of the best surf trips I've ever been on next to my Tahiti trip last summer while filming Soul Surfer. I really enjoyed hanging out with the girls; fishing, dancing, and pushing each other in our surfing. It was a good trip to get some solid surf.

So we've heard that next on your list is a big wave quest?

There has been a new wave of girls surfing big waves. It’s all about charging and pushing yourself to new limits. It’s been really cool to see. I don’t really know what the reason is but I guess it’s just about girls pushing each other and getting more adventurous. For myself I just love the adrenaline and just pushing myself to go in bigger surf. I’m really starting to fall in love with it, though I’m just getting into it and taking it one step at a time. It’s cool to see.

Who are the women that you believe are shaping the path for surfing and surf culture today?

For sure Carissa Moore’s drive and innovation in her surfing and also Stephanie Gilmore for her style and fluid surfing.

Who inspires you?

Overall, Jesus Christ
. “No greater love has anyone than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.”  On a daily basis, my family, Sarah Hill, my friends, and random others who are loving life, putting their faith into action, making healthy decisions, and more!

What is your moto for life?

Live healthy, have faith, have fun, and never give up!


Thanks to Ripcurl, Plueckhahn and Warbrick for the photos of Bethany.

For more information and links to Bethany's personal pages go to Twitter:@bethanyhamilton
  Facebook Instagram:@babybham

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