Bethany Hamilton

by Ashleigh from Granite Bay

"I wouldn''t have changed what happened to me because then I wouldn''t have had this chance, in front of all of you, to embrace more people than I ever could with two arms."-Bethany Hamilton

 What is a Hero?

  Everyone has heard about heroes.  They're the people with the special powers who go around rescuing others in Superman outfits right? In fantasy, that may be the case.  But in the everyday world, heroes are regular people who want to help others in their community or life.  They can also be famous people who are well-known for their organizations and/or charity.  In general, heroes are people who transform compassion into something heroic.  They go to extreme lengths to help others in need, putting others first before themselves.  Heroes are the people that you see going down the road less traveled to help others in need.

Heart of a Hero:

  The water thrashed and churned around a girl and her surfboard. On October 31, 2003, thirteen year old Bethany Hamilton went out to Tunnels Beach (Kauai) with her best friend Alana Blanchard and Alana's father and brother to go surfing.  The water was calm and clear; then, unexpectedly, an enormous 14-foot tiger shark appeared.  Bethany's left arm was dangling in the water and the shark grabbed a hold of it.  It severed her arm off just below the shoulder, leaving Bethany with a stump of an arm gushing with blood.  Throughout all of this, Bethany remained calm and collected.  According to her father, she just yelled "A shark bit me!" when the attack started.  Alana's father made a tourniquet out of the surfboard leash, but Bethany still lost 60% of her blood by the time the paramedics came. Soon after the attack (about one  month), Bethany was back in the ocean doing her passion, surfing.  She ranked high in many pro surfing competitions.  But this was not the only thing that Bethany did.  Most people after going through such a devastating event would live the rest of their lives in misery; but Bethany was different.  She accepted the fact that she had lost a limb and would have to adjust to her new life, but she took it in stride.  Or as she says in her motto, "Me, give up?  No way!" 

Bethany Hamilton Surfing After the Attack
Bethany Hamilton Surfing After the Attack

Back on the Board:

  Bethany's strong faith in God helped her throughout her recovery and adjustment to living as an amputee. "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 may be over the next wave. . . if you have faith, anything is possible, anything at all."  Just three weeks after the attack, Bethany was back doing surfing.  After collaborating with her father on how to make adjustments to her board that would help her cope with this new obstacle, Bethany plunged back in to the world of pro surfing. She believes that "People can do whatever they want if they just set their mind to it."  In 2004, she placed fifth in the Open Women's division of a surf competition.  In 2005, Bethany won first place in Explorer Women's division of that year's NSSA National Championships.  She has won many ASP/World Tour events.  The list goes on and on.  But this is just a small portion of Bethany's amazing recovery and heroism. 

Bethany Hamilton with tsunami victims
Bethany Hamilton with tsunami victims

Soul Surfer to the Needy:

  In 2004, only one year after the attack, Bethany partnered up with World Vision to help children in need.  Her first trip with them was to Thailand, where she helped children after a tsunami disaster.  Bethany wanted to help children in the tsunami-struck areas of Thailand.  She said to them: "I can't even imagine what you went through.  I can only speak from my own experience."  She spent a week assisting survivors in three villages. This consisted of batik-painting, volleyball games with the kids, and talking with the fishermen.  To help the tsunami survivors overcome their fear of the ocean, Bethany led more than 50 children from their village of Lam Tukkae out to Patong Beach for an afternoon of surfing.

Bethany Hamilton's organization
Bethany Hamilton's organization

  During her many  visits to survivors of natural disasters, poverty-struck families, and children with disabilities, Bethany has met a lot of inspiring people, both old and young.  In turn, she has inspired many of them.  Bethany says this about her visits "I see that God is able to  use my story to help others.  Once a girl came up to me and told me that she had cancer.  When she learned my story it made her realize that  she didn't need to give up."  Bethany also has learned a lot from the reactions of the people that she has met "I met so many people who had lost so much but still retained hope for the future.  It's a true inspiration to see people beginning the long road to recovery after such a devastating event."


  Bethany always states that her fortune comes from God.  She believes that the shark attack was meant to happen because of a bigger purpose.  "I have this thought every second of my life-Why me?  Not negatively, like Why did this terrible thing happen to me?  But more like Why did God choose me and what does he have in mind for me?"  Bethany's strong faith in God helped her through the shark attack and recovery.  Now it has led her to help those who are in need.  Not once has Bethany pitied herself, instead, she is motivated to help others.

Spreading it Further:

  Bethany has also started an organization for fellow amputees and shark attack victims called Friends of Bethany.  Its goal is to spread the love of God by inspiring shark attack victims and amputees with the life stories of Bethany and others.  They do this through sharing movies, activities, and projects.  The organization looks for encouragement packets that can be given to victims while they are hospitalized and prayer for the victims.

Page created on 11/8/2012 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 11/8/2012 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.


Hamilton, Bethany. "In Bethany's Words." [Online] Available 2004.

Holmberg, Sara. "Surfer Girl Rides Waves Again After Losing Arm From Shark Attack." [Online] Available 2009.

Dilbeck, Mike. "What Really is a Hero, Anyway?." [Online] Available

News Room. "Bethany Hamilton Brings Hope and Surfing to Tsunami Survivors ." [Online] Available

Michelle. "No Woe, Just Go-Go-Go: The Story of Bethany Hamilton." [Online] Available