Bethany Hamilton

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Bethany Hamilton
Personal information
Born 8-2-1990 (age 31)
Birth place Lihue, Hawaii, U.S.
Birth name Bethany Meilani Hamilton
Residence Kauai, Hawaii, U.S.
Height 5'11"
Weight 140lb
Surfing specifications
Sponsors Rip Curl
Major achievements ESPY Award (2004)
NSSA National Helping Kids Champion (2005)
2nd place, ASP World Junior Championships (2008)

Bethany Meilani Hamilton Dirks (born February 8, 1990), better known simply as Bethany Hamilton, 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.

Surfing career

Placings in surf competitions
Year Event Place Country
1998 Rell Sun Menehune 1st USA
2002 Open Women’s Division of the NSSA 1st USA
2004 NSSA National Competition 5th USA
2005 NUSS National Competition 1st USA
2005 O’Neill Island Girl Junior Pro tournament 1st USA
2006 NSSA National Championship: 18-and-under Finalist 5th USA
2006 Hawaii Team Highlights 4th
2007 NSSA Regionals 5th USA
2007 T & C Pipeline Women’s Pro 4th USA
2008 US Open of Surfing—Huntington Beach, California 5th USA
2008 Roxy Pro Surf Festival—Phillip Island 3rd Australia
2009 Rio Surf International in Rio de Janeiro 3rd Brazil
2009 Billabong ASP World Junior Championship 2nd Australia
2014 Surf 'n' Sea Pipeline Women's Pro 1st USA

Shark attack and recovery

On October 31, 2003, Hamilton, aged 13 at the time, went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai, with best friend Alana Blanchard, Alana’s father, Holt, and brother Byron. Around 7:30 a.m., with numerous turtles in the area, she was lying on her surfboard with her left arm dangling in the water, when a 14-foot tiger shark attacked her,[1] severing her left arm just below the shoulder. The Blanchards helped paddle her back to shore, then Alana's father fashioned a tourniquet out of a surfboard leash and wrapped it around the stump of her arm, before she was rushed to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. By the time she arrived there she had lost over 60 percent of her blood and was in hypovolemic shock. A doctor living in a hotel nearby raced to the rescue. Her father, who was scheduled to have knee surgery that morning, was already there, but she took his place in the operating room. She spent a week in recovery before being released. During subsequent media interviews, she confirmed that she felt normal when she was bitten and did not feel much pain from the bite at the moment of the disaster, but felt numb on the way to the hospital.

When the news broke out of the shark attack, a family of fishermen led by Ralph Young presented to investigators photos of a 14-foot-long tiger shark they had caught and killed about one mile from the attack site. It had surfboard debris in its mouth. When measurements of its mouth were compared with those of Hamilton’s broken board, it matched. In late 2004, the police officially confirmed that it was the one that attacked her.

Despite the trauma of the incident, Hamilton was determined to return to surfing.[2] Three weeks after the incident, she returned to her board.[3]

Initially, she 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 teaching herself to surf with one arm, on January 10, 2004, she entered a major competition. She now uses standard competitive performance short-boards.[4] The broken surfboard that Hamilton was riding during the attack is on display at the California Surf Museum.[5]


Since the attack, Hamilton appeared 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 Biggest Loser, 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.[6]

In 2004 she won the ESPY Award for Best Comeback Athlete[7] and also received the Courage Teen Choice Award.[8]

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 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.[9][10]

On August 7, 2009, she was a contestant on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? and won $25,000. On May 16, 2010, she appeared on an episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. In March 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.

On April 8, 2011, a feature film Soul Surfer, based on her 2004 book, was released in theaters. Hamilton was portrayed by actress AnnaSophia Robb. Hamilton herself performed all the one-armed surfing stunts in it.[11] The movie was released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 2, 2011.

On October 11, 2011, she appeared on the TLC series 19 Kids and Counting, 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. Filming began in Clearwater, Florida, on October 7, 2013. It was released on September 12, 2014.[12] Hamilton and her husband, Adam Dirks, competed as a team on the 25th season of The Amazing Race. Filmed in June 2014, it premiered on September 26 on CBS.[13]

Personal life

Hamilton was home-schooled from the age of 10.[2] She is the youngest of three siblings.[14] In early 2012, Hamilton met youth minister[15] Adam Dirks through mutual friends.[16] They became engaged in April 2013.[17] The couple were married on August 18, 2013, in front of 300 friends and family members at a secluded 130-acre estate on Kauai’s north shore, near where she grew up.[18] She and Adam competed on the The Amazing Race 25 where they placed 3rd. On February 9, 2015, Hamilton and her husband announced that they were expecting their first child, a baby boy due in early June.[19]


  1. About. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Homeschool World - Articles - Soul Survivor: The Bethany Hamilton Story - Practical Homeschooling Magazine. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
  3. Clark , Mark (September 24, 2011). Soul Surfer Interview With Bethany Hamilton!. WhatCulture!. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  4. Bethany Hamilton – Amputee Surfer | The Injury Cooperative. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
  5. Guy Bagley . Current Exhibits. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  6. "Shark attack survivor discusses products and jewelry lines in new mag" by Lanaly Cabali, The Garden Island, June 30, 2006.
  7. The 2004 ESPY Awards winners. ESPN. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  8. Silverman , Stephen M. (August 9, 2004). Lindsay Lohan Top Teen Choice Awards. People. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  9. Heart of a Soul Surfer. Walking on Water. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  10. Heart of a Soul Surfer: The Bethany Hamilton Movie. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  11. Pilkington , Maria (September 27, 2011). Bethany Hamilton (Soul Surfer) Interview. The 405. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  12. Bethany Hamilton Appears in New 'Dolphin Tale 2'. Retrieved 2014-08-24.
  13. Cast features survivor veterans, surfer Bethany Hamliton. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  14. Bethany Hamilton: About.
  15. Dodd , Johnny (March 28, 2014). Bethany Hamilton: My Husband Keeps Me Surfing. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
  16. Webber , Stephanie (August 18, 2013). Pro Surfer Bethany Hamilton Marries Adam Dirks. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  17. Wicks , Krista (May 7, 2013). Surfer Bethany Hamilton Engaged. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  18. Bethany Hamilton's Official Wedding Photo. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  19. Johnson , Anne (February 8, 2015). Bethany and Adam Announce: Baby on Board!. Retrieved February 9, 2015.

External links

See also