Everyone has been through or will go through something drastic or life-changing once in their lifetime. An experience that would test how strong or resilient you are. For 30-year-old professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, a 4.3 tiger shark attacked her and ripped her left hand off. For someone who has been a surfer since childhood, pursued the dream, and loved everything about surfing, the experience hit her hard.
Hamilton did not allow a shark attack to stop her from pursuing her dreams. She reveals factors that helped her bounce back, including advice from Mike Coots, who had been through a similar situation
Hamilton explains the experience and trauma she experienced after the Sky sports’ Life Lessons through Sports. She is an inspiration to many people. Living with a disability that could have hindered her from doing what she loves, most must be very devastating, but she pulled through and has touched many lives. How did it all start for her? Where did she get the passion?
“My parents had me on board before I could walk, and I was just hooked on riding waves and being in the water. I was always asking my parents to take me surfing before school, and I’d turn up with wet hair and sandy feet! I was hooked. By the age of 10, I had high expectations and goals for myself. I wanted to be the best and push women’s surfing.”
What a dreamer she was. She had the support of her parents, accompanied by such passion and talent. She gained her first sponsorship deal when she was only 9 years old. She was getting better day by day, getting much-needed recognition. Things were moving in the right direction, but as we all know, life is not always interesting. On October 31, 2003, she met an accident. What could have been her approach? How did she feel?
Hamilton admits that she could have been depressed about everything. She lost her arm at a time when she was beginning to soar in her career. Everyone would have been depressed, feel lost, and sad. Was that the case for Hamilton? “My arm was gone, it was heavy, and it was overwhelming.” She said. “At the same time, there was a sense of peace that I had. I trusted that God had my life in his hands, and on top of that, I was just grateful to be alive.”
She had to go through therapy and treatment that is a must, but apart from that, during her recovery, she had the chance to meet Mike Coots, a fellow surfer who had suffered the same fate as Hamilton. He lost his leg to a shark attack, but that did not stop him from surfing on a prosthetic leg. She said hearing from Coots brought her ‘lightbulb’ that was turned off back to life and allowed her to think she could surf again.
“Being back on a board propelled me forward, and I thought if I could surf, I could do other things too. It spurred on the unstoppable me.” – Bethany Hamilton
Hamilton’s first surf after the attack was such a fantastic experience. She said she was overwhelmed with joy and tears of happiness. Hamilton had to change her mindset and approached her recovery with maturity. She said she did not allow her fear of sharks to come between her comebacks. She understands that just like driving on the road, one can meet an accident similar to how she got bitten by a shark. Hence, it all boils down to mindset and believing in oneself.
On her journey to recovery, Hamilton said she had sought the assistance of people to help her through it. She advises others to do the same. “I don’t try and go it alone. I find the right people to be with me on the journey. This life isn’t easy, and when you try and do it by yourself, I will get lonely and be scarier than if you have people to support you.”
Hamilton doesn’t see herself as someone who should be in the spotlight. It is in her interest to be on the low. Still, she believes the 2011 Hollywood movie, Soul Surfer, which portrays her life as a disabled surfer, has impacted many people, and if it means being in the spotlight will help people find themselves and be encouraged, why not?