Bethany Hamilton is an American professional surfer. In 2003, she survived a shark attack in which her left arm was bitten off. Ultimately she 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. In April 2011, the feature film Soul Surfer was released. She also has a 2019 movie, Unstoppable, where she shows the struggles and happiness of her family.
Bethany Meilani Hamilton was born on February 8, 1990 in Lihue, Hawaii. Currently she resides in Kauai, Hawaii. Her father is called Tom (born September 13, 1948) and her mother Cheri Hamilton (born February 14, 1952). She also has two older brothers Noah (born December 7, 1981) and Timothy (born June 14, 1986).
She was also home-schooled from 6th grade through high school by her mother, a housewife. Her father was a waiter at a town cafe. She is a Christian. In early 2012, Hamilton met youth minister Adam Dirks through mutual friends. Eventually, they got engaged in 2013. The couple was married on August 18, 2013, at an estate on Kauai’s north shore, near where she grew up. The couple have a son named Tobias, born on June 1, 2015. On March 27, 2018, they had a second son, Wesley. On February 14, 2021, they had a third son, Micah.
Bethany began surfing when she was 8 years old and gained her first sponsorship by age 9. Just like other entrepreneurs like Patrick Shin, she started to train very early for the sport that she loved. This paid off big time for her.
She has had a successful surfing career. Her latest big win was on the Fiji Women’s Pro in Fiji where she ended 3rd place.
Shark Attack and Recovery
On October 31, 2003, Hamilton, who was 13 years old at the time, went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai, with her best friend Alana Blanchard, Alana’s father and brother, when a 14-foot-long (4.3 m) tiger shark attacked her, severing her left arm just below the shoulder.
She had to teach herself how to surf with one arm. She returned to surfing on November 26, 2003, just 26 days after the attack. She also entered her first major competition on January 10, 2004.
Currently she is using standard competitive performance short-boards. The shark-bitten surfboard that Hamilton was riding during the attack, as well as the bathing suit she was wearing at the time, a gift from ocean photographer Aaron Chang, are on display at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California.
- Hamilton has published a total of 8 books. She also published one with her mom telling her story.
- Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board (2004)
- Devotions for the Soul Surfer (2006, reprinted in 2011)
- Rise Above: A 90-day Devotional (2007)
- Ask Bethany: FAQs: Surfing, Faith, and Friends (2007)
- Raising a Soul Surfer: One Family’s Epic Tale (2011)
- Body and Soul: A Girl’s Guide to a Fit, Fun, and Fabulous Life (2014)
- Ask Bethany: Bethany Answers Over 200 Questions from Girls Like You (2014)
- Be Unstoppable: The Art of Never Giving Up (2018)
- Unstoppable Me (2018)