Sitting in a waiting room yesterday (always a great place to find a tonne of magazines), I came across an article on 18-yr old Bethany Hamilton.
Writing on extreme sport over the past few months we have come across some really amazing extreme personalities, extreme adventurers and extremely brave characters, and Bethany certainly has her place amongst them.
Born and brought up on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, Bethany lost her arm at the age of 13, on October 31, 2003, when it was bitten off by a 13ft (4m) long tiger shark at a place called the “tunnels” – known by locals as a great place to catch up to 80-foot waves. Undeterred by the accident she was out surfing again 3 weeks later and got back up on her feet after the third wave and said she was “super stoked”.
Her family love to kid her about being born with salt water in her veins. At 5 she entered her first contest; by 9 she was aiming toward a pro career and had signed a sponsorship deal with Rip Curl that covered entry fees and travel expenses and got her free products.
When she began surfing again, she initially adopted a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker and which made it easier to paddle, but after teaching herself to surf with one arm, she is now surfing competitively again and using the competitive performance short-boards.
In 2005 she took 1st place in the NSSA National Championships, a goal she had been trying to achieve since before the shark attack. In 2008, she began competing full-time on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS). In her first competition against many of the world’s best women surfers, she came in 3rd.
Her blog says that her life is now richer and fuller — and her surfing career more tangible and lucrative — than before the attack. “She’s the most recognized surfer on the planet,” says Adam Sharp, vice president of sales and marketing for Rip Curl, a leading surf-wear manufacturer that has sponsored Hamilton for the last five years.
Not long after the accident, when asked what it was that she loved so much about surfing, she said “It’s probably like the funnest thing ever. Every day you go out it’s totally different than the day before, and it’s always, like, refreshing in the water. It always takes your thoughts, like, say you’re having a bad day, and every time you usually get good thoughts after surfing, and it cheers you up.”