Bethany Hamilton

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Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton surfing (sq cropped).jpg
Hamilton surfing in September 2016
Personal information
BornBethany Meilani Hamilton
(1990-02-08) February 8, 1990 (age 29)
Lihue, Hawaii, U.S.
ResidenceKauai, Hawaii, U.S
Height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight155 lb (70 kg)
Surfing career
Best year2005
Major achievementsESPY Award (2004)
NSSA National Helping Kids Champion (2005)
2nd place, ASP World Junior Championships (2008)

Bethany Meilani Hamilton-Dirks (born February 8, 1990) is an American professional surfer who survived a 2003 shark attack in which her left arm was bitten off but who ultimately 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 now has a new movie called, Unstoppable, where she shows the struggles and happiness of her family. Hamilton has been in the WSL league for quite a few years. Her best friend, Alana Blanchard, is also a pro surfer.

Surfing career[edit]

Placings in surf competitions
Year Event Place Country
1998 Rell Sun Menehune 1st Australia
2002 Open Women's Division of the NSSA 1st USA
2004 NSSA National Competition 1st Australia
2005 NSSA National Competition 1st USA
2005NOO. NASA 2006 NSSA National Championship: 18-and-under Finalist 5th USA
2006 Hawaii Team Highlights 4th
2007 NSSA Regionals 1st USA
2007 T & C Pipeline Women's Pro 1st 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
2015 Swatch Women's Pro[1] 13th USA
2016 Fiji Women's Pro[2] 3rd Fiji

Shark attack and recovery[edit]

On October 31, 2003, Hamilton, aged 13 at the time, went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai, with her best friend Alana Blanchard, Alana's father and brother, Holt and Byron, when a 14-foot-long (4.3 m) tiger shark attacked her,[3] 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 rash guard and wrapped it around the stump of her arm. She was rushed to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. By the time she arrived there she had lost over 60% 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 same morning, was already there, but she took his place in the operating room. 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.

Hamilton surfing in March 2007

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 (4.3 m) 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 same one that had attacked her.

Despite the trauma of the incident, Hamilton was determined to return to surfing.[4] One month after the attack, she returned to her board.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7][8]


Since the attack, she has appeared as 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, The Tonight Show and Dude Perfect, as well as in magazines People, Time, and American Girl. Additionally, she was the cover story in the premier issue of niNe magazine.[9]

In 2004, she won the ESPY Award for Best Comeback Athlete[10] and also received the Courage Teen Choice Award.[11]

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.[12][13]

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.[14] 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, and the film was released on September 12, 2014.[15] Hamilton and her husband, Adam Dirks, competed as a team on the 25th season of The Amazing Race, finishing in third place. Filmed in June 2014, it premiered on September 26 of the same year on CBS.[16]

Hamilton is involved in numerous charitable efforts, including her own foundation, Friends of Bethany,[17] which reaches out to amputees and youth, encouraging a broken world by offering hope to overcome through Jesus Christ. Using her platform as a professional athlete to promote living a fit and healthy lifestyle, she authored the book BODY AND SOUL (ISBN 9780310731054) in 2014. Hamilton's latest project, BETHANY HAMILTON: UNSTOPPABLE (released 2019), is a surf documentary filmed by Aaron Leiber[18][19] and was accompanied by a photo book (ISBN 978-0310764854) along with a children's book (ISBN 978-0310764977).[20]

Personal life[edit]

Hamilton was home-schooled from 6th grade through high school. She is a Christian [4] and the youngest of three siblings.[21] In early 2012, Hamilton met youth minister[22] Adam Dirks through mutual friends.[23] They became engaged in April 2013.[24][25] 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.[26][27] The couple have a son named Tobias who was born in 2015.[28] In March 2018, they welcomed their second son, Wesley.[29]


  1. ^ "Prizes & Placing - 2015 Swatch Women's Pro".
  2. ^ "Results - 2016 Fiji Women's Pro".
  3. ^ "About". Bethany's General Biography. 2003. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Homeschool World - Articles - Soul Survivor: The Bethany Hamilton Story - Practical Homeschooling Magazine". October 31, 2003. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  5. ^ Clark, Mark (September 24, 2011). "Soul Surfer Interview With Bethany Hamilton!". WhatCulture!. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  6. ^ "Bethany Hamilton – Amputee Surfer | The Injury Cooperative". Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  7. ^ Guy Bagley. "Current Exhibits". Archived from the original on August 6, 2013. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  8. ^ Museum Exhibit (Permanent Exhibit). "Courageous Inspiration: Bethany Hamilton" Archived September 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine California Surf Museum. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Shark attack survivor discusses products and jewelry lines in new mag" Archived April 11, 2016, at the Wayback Machine by Lanaly Cabali, The Garden Island, June 30, 2006.
  10. ^ "The 2004 ESPY Awards winners". ESPN. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  11. ^ Silverman, Stephen M. (August 9, 2004). "Lindsay Lohan Top Teen Choice Awards". People. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  12. ^ "Heart of a Soul Surfer". Walking on Water. Archived from the original on July 1, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  13. ^ "Heart of a Soul Surfer: The Bethany Hamilton Movie". Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  14. ^ Pilkington, Maria (September 27, 2011). "Bethany Hamilton (Soul Surfer) Interview". The 405. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  15. ^ "Bethany Hamilton Appears in New 'Dolphin Tale 2'". June 17, 2014. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  16. ^ "Cast features survivor veterans, surfer Bethany Hamilton". May 31, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
  17. ^ "Friends of Bethany Hamilton – A non-profit which reaches out to encourage a broken world offering hope to overcome through Jesus Christ". Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  18. ^ Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable (2018) IMDb. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  19. ^ "BETHANY HAMILTON: UNSTOPPABLE". Unstoppable. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  20. ^ "Bethany Hamilton | Unstoppable Books". Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  21. ^ "Bethany Hamilton: About". Archived from the original on April 29, 2014.
  22. ^ Dodd, Johnny (March 28, 2014). "Bethany Hamilton: My Husband Keeps Me Surfing". People. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
  23. ^ Webber, Stephanie (August 18, 2013). "Pro Surfer Bethany Hamilton Marries Adam Dirks". Us Weekly. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  24. ^ Wicks, Krista (May 7, 2013). "Surfer Bethany Hamilton Engaged". Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  25. ^ "Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton Engaged to Wed Youth Minister Adam Dirks". July 12, 2013.
  26. ^ "Bethany Hamilton's Official Wedding Photo". Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  27. ^ "Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton Gets Married to Christian Youth Minister Adam Dirks". August 18, 2013.
  28. ^ Herreria, Carla (June 15, 2015). "Bethany Hamilton Introduces New Baby Boy With Adorable Family Photo". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
  29. ^ Bethany Hamilton [@bethanyhamilton] (October 8, 2017). "More than thankful to share our joyous news!!! #babyinthere #babyonboard✨🎉❤️" (Tweet). Retrieved October 8, 2017 – via Twitter.

External links[edit]