Many people know about Bethany Hamilton and the horrific experience she underwent after losing an arm while surfing during a shark attack in 2003. She was 13 at the time, and a 14-foot tiger shark bit off her left arm.
What most aren’t aware of is Bethany’s incredible return to the professional sport she loves so much and the way she is able to continue surfing despite losing a limb. Her competitive spirit is fierce.
A native Hawaiian, Bethany was in the water as a very young girl. She was so talented that she started competitive surfing at age 8, and by 9, she had earned her first sponsorship.
She credits her very strong paddling skills as a child for enabling her to still compete after losing most of her arm. Her coach has also advised placing her arm underneath her surfboard as she paddles. Fans of Bethany wonder how she doesn’t paddle around in circles because of only one arm to compensate, but the surfer has reminded people that boards come with fins equipped underneath, and she manages quite effectively.
Bethany has a great tip for getting under the waves by keeping her eyes open when she duck dives. When there’s an oncoming wave, she is able to get through by looking for open pockets of water, for example.
Another tip she has is standing on her board and getting the board really deep into the water. This enables her to go deeper than she would with a standard duck dive, and then, Bethany’s able to jump down, grab her board and proceed.
For catching a wave, Bethany says she specializes in late drops, partly because she doesn’t like taking more than three to four strokes when paddling into a wave.
She says she excels at sticking the late drop, and she also sometimes does this maneuver by sitting back on the board and pushing her tail back into the water. From there, she is able to propel herself and her board forward into the wave.
When it comes to standing up on her surfboard, Bethany explains that lower or smaller waves are difficult for her to get up in. When a wave has some “oomph” to it, she says she gets into the wave and places her hand in the middle of the board and pushes up to stand and ride the wave.
Bethany’s father has helped her by making her handles for her boards after watching her struggle with her duck dives. He told his daughter that he noticed that lifeguards have handles on their boards, so he set out making them for Bethany. She says she and her dad purchase the supplies from a surf shop in Hawaii that sells leash plugs. He adds some fisherman’s surgical tubing and creates the handle.
After her accident, Bethany took her time to re-learn how to surf and believes that her young age and persistence made her fearless in moving forward.
Bethany Hamilton is truly an inspiration to all.