Born and raised by a family of surfers on Kauai, Bethany Hamilton entered her first state-wide surf competition at the age of eight, winning both the short board and long board categories. At the age of 12, Bethany won the Open Women’s Division of the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA), demonstrating her potential to become one of surf's newest and biggest names.
On the morning of October 31, 2003, at the age of 13, Hamilton went surfing with her best friend Alana Blanchard, who is also currently a pro surfer, and Blanchard’s family. In between sets, Bethany lied on her board to relax, leaving her left arm resting in the water. Around 7:30 am, a 14 to 15 foot tiger shark attacked her where she rested, severing her left arm just below the shoulder. The Blanchards came to Bethany’s aid and paddled her back to shore. Getting the injured girl on land alone took twenty minutes. The long paddle-back, combined with the Blanchard's lack of an adequate tourniquet (they were forced to use a surf board leash) and the drive from Tunnels Beach to the nearest hospital resulted in Hamilton losing 60% of her blood before she arrived at the emergency room. It took seven days post-operation until Bethany was in a stable enough condition to leave the hospital.
Despite experiencing every surfer's biggest fear, Bethany returned to the sport within a month of the attack. She became acclimated to surfing with one arm by using with a longer, thicker board, then tapering back down to the short board size at which she liked to compete. On January 10th, 2004, less than three months after being mauled by the tiger shark, Bethany entered the NSSA’s regional qualifying event and placed fifth among surfers 18 & under in the Hawaiian Islands.
In 2005, after further training herself to paddle using one arm and kicking with her legs to gain momentum, Bethany qualified for the NSSA’s National Competition. She placed first. For overcoming tremendous obstacles and displaying steadfast courage in the wake of unfathomable terror, Bethany Hamilton is a Gutsy Gal that inspires us.
Bethany Hamilton continues to compete professionally and garnered titles throughout the 2000s.