Obstacles 0, Bethany 1

Obstacles 0, Bethany 1

Bethany Hamilton turned tragedy into triumph.

Halloween 2003, thirteen year-old Bethany Hamilton paddles out at Tunnels, her home break in Kaua’i, and has a session that will change her life forever. A fourteen-foot tiger shark bites off her left arm, and it seems that the NSSA champ’s budding career in professional surfing has come to a grinding halt. But to Bethany, this was just the fuel she needed to start her fire.

Seemingly overnight, Bethany has become the poster child for women’s surfing, young athletes, and overcoming obstacles. Now that the initial shock of her tragedy has subsided, she is wowing people in other ways. She has shown the world how to cope. An accident that would leave most depressed and unmotivated has done just the opposite for Bethany-is has turned her into a truly remarkable human being.

“She’s been a real inspiration to the surfing community in showing us that true bravery is facing your fears and getting back out there,” Bethany’s good friend and surfing buddy Noelle Rogers said of her quick and courageous return to the water.

She recently placed fifth in an NSSA championship contest, won a Teen Choice award for Best Female Athlete, an ESPN ESPY award for Comeback Athlete of the Year, appeared on numerous TV shows from Oprah to TRL to The Tonight Show and 20/20, and has graced the covers People and Time. And this past October, almost a year after her attack, Bethany came out with a book, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board.

So while other middle-schoolers take math tests and complain about cafeteria food, Bethany is learning how to make a career out of surfing with one arm and a hell of a lot of courage.-Molly Katzman