Bethany Hamilton - The "Soul Surfer"

(1990 - Present)

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Bethany Hamilton standing with surfboard. Digital image. By 58. Blogspot, 2012. Web. 11 Apr. 2013. <>. ||

Bethany Hamilton was born on February 8, 1990 in Kauai, Hawaii and began to surf as a young girl, entering her first surfing competition at the age of eight. In this competition, she won both the short and long board divisions. This experience and her love of the sport inspired her to continue to train and compete in surfing competitions. However, on October 31, 2003, when Bethany was just thirteen years old, she was attacked by a tiger shark, which bit off her left arm. Bethany lost 60% of her blood and needed multiple surgeries to help her recover from her injury.[1]
Despite her new physical disability, Bethany returned to the beach to attempt surfing less than a month after the attack, learning how to adjust to surfing with only one arm. After repeatedly falling off of her surfboard, her friends and family motivated her to try one more time, and she finally was able to master standing on her board. With increasing practice and perseverance, Bethany was able to gain the strength and ability to master the sport of surfing once more, and began training to compete again. She became professional in 2007[2] and competed in many surfing competitions around the world. She was the runner up in the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) 2009 World Junior Pro Championships.[3] In 2011, she was ranked in the top 25 female surfers in the world.[4]
In addition to her successful surfing career, Bethany has contributed to and been involved in many charities, most notably with World Vision, a Christian relief foundation devoted to helping poor children living in poverty, spoken for SurfAid International advocating the importance of health care and hygiene, and supported the Women's Sports Foundation, Compassion International, and Spectrum Ministries. She also wrote several books, including her autobiography, "Soul Surfer", inspiring others through her hardships and her basis in her Christian faith.[5] Even though she had to alter her entire lifestyle and learn how to surf again to adapt to her physical disability, she succeeded in her goals to become a professional surfer.

Explanation of Practice
Bethany Hamilton's primary practice is surfing. The practice of surfing is a sport, which has formalized, standard rules, involves other people, especially in surfing competitions, and is socially established in the recreational lives of many people living by warm beaches; in the United States, the sport is most noticeable along the California coastline and throughout Hawaii. One of the internal goods of surfing may be participating in the sport as a healthy activity for exercise as a part of the act of accomplishing a goal that one has set for him- or herself, like proceeding to ride the tallest wave without falling off of one's surfboard, or striving for the standards of excellence set by a surfing competition, promoting bravery and perseverance in the surfers that work to pursue these goals. This good can only be made possible in the activity of surfing, corresponding with the standards of excellence that are set by surfing competitions and the surfers' own personal goals, which allow one to differentiate the abilities of the different surfers and provide the goal towards which each surfer strives to pass.
In addition, some human powers are employed in the practice of surfing, such as a person's athleticism and agility, fitness and training, timing, and commitment. Lastly, in the sport of surfing, one can flouris
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Neal, Katie D. Bethany Hamilton surfing a wave. Digital image. Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton. SPRY Living, 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2013. <>.
h as a result of one's knowledge of their unity with nature. A surfer acts and reacts according to the ebb and flow of the ocean's waves, and they are often able to exceed the standards of excellence in this unity and interaction with nature. Through this interaction, one can learn how to take challenges as they come and turn them into accomplishments. After the examination of the sport of surfing, it can be qualified that it is, indeed, a practice.

Personal Challenge

After surfing for much of her life previously, Bethany faced the aftermath of the shark attack. Through therapy from the doctors who taught her how to adjust to life now with only one arm, she regained much of her physical strength and dreamed of getting back in the water, setting a goal for herself to be able to get back on a surfboard by Thanksgiving 2003, less than a month after the shark attack. However, she had doubted herself and her abilities a bit, wondering just how much she would be able to handle. After building up the strength to persevere and return to surfing, she jumped in the water and proceeded to pursue her goal of being able to surf again. However, she had tried and failed to stand up on her surfboard multiple times, and became tired and frustrated almost to the point of giving up completely. But with encouragement from her family and friends, she continued to make attempts until she finally succeeded in standing up on her surfboard.[6]
After much training afterwards, Bethany was able to overcome her disability and worked to achieve her life goal of becoming a professional surfer, gaining her strength and competing in many national and international competitions, winning a few and placing in many. However, none of her personal accomplishments today could have been possible if Bethany did not take the first step and actually return to surfing despite the physical struggles she had to surpass on her way.[7]

Cultural IllBethany Hamilton's story can be related to a whole group of people in society - people with physical disabilities, and by extension, those with mental disabilities. Many people in society tend to treat anyone with a disability, whether it was from birth or acquired during one's lifetime, as inferior to those whose abilities are fully formed and active, or "normal". This view puts "a person's impairment in the context of social and environmental factors, which create disabling barriers to participation".[8] People with disabilites are often looked down upon and are not usually seen as having the ability to contribute anything to society or cannot achieve great accomplishments. Although these views may seem materialistic, they are still very prevalent in today's society. However, it is believed that people who lack one area of physical or mental abilities overcome these obstacles by making up for this lacking in another area. For example, people who are blind may develop better hearing to make up for the lack of visual sensation. This shows that people with disabilities are still able to contribute to society in ways that are different than what is expected of those who are lucky enough to have no disabilities. Even though the means of the contribution or abilities may be different, the effects are still of equal value. Those with disabilities can still grow, achieve their goals, and be included equally into the greater community, and they can do great things just as much as anybody else could.
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Bethany Hamilton with shark-bitten surfboard. Digital image. Bethany Hamilton - Soul Surfer, Professional Surfer, Role Model, Inspirational Galleries Photos. 2010. Web. 11 Apr. 2013. <>.

This notion is made manifest in Bethany's experiences and accomplishments. By pursuing her goals and reaching beyond the obstacles that stood in her way, Bethany was able to overcome her physical disability and achieve her goal of becoming a professional surfer. She made her mark on the greater surfing community, proving to them that even while having only one arm, she could still make great waves and impact the lives of others, both in her surfing and in he charity work afterwards. By not simply succumbing to her disability, she accomplished more than even she thought she would be able to do in her times of doubt.

The main virtue present in the success of Bethany Hamilton is perseverance, which is defined as "the steady persistence in a cause of action, a purpose, or state, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement."[9] By facing her physical struggles head on, Bethany paved the path for her success. Directly after her surgery, she persevered by overcoming her moments of doubt and tested her abilities with a surfboard again. After getting past the initial struggle of determining whether or not she would even surf again, Bethany challenged herself one step further by training to compete once more, and as a result of her perseverance, she won many titles and competitions, all because she decided to test her abilities and see if she could still stand on a surfboard.
By persevering in her own efforts, Bethany also persevered in the rejection of cultural claims that she may not be able to surf well again, not to mention surf professionally. But Bethany was able to overcome these challenges, too, showing the world that although she had a disability, she is still one of the top female surfers in the world, equal to or greater than many others. But although Bethany's many accomplishments may seem too big for anyone else to ever live up to, one should keep in mind that one can fulfill themselves in their practice in a similar way with just an act of perseverance.

By: Kristen Jackowski

  1. ^

    "Biography." Bethany Hamilton Soul Surfer Professional Surfer Role Model Inspiration >> About Me >> Biography 2010. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <>.
  2. ^

    Lewis, Kristin. "Shark Attack Survivor." Scholastic Scope 59.15 (2011): 4-9. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.
  3. ^ "Biography." Bethany Hamilton Soul Surfer Professional Surfer Role Model Inspiration >> About Me >> Biography 2010. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <>.
  4. ^ Rochlin, Margy. "True Grit: Bethany Hamilton's Story." Ladies' Home Journal, May 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2013. <>.
  5. ^

    "Bethany Hamilton Charity Work, Events and Causes." Look to the Stars. 2013. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <>.
  6. ^

    Lewis, Kristin. "Shark Attack Survivor." Scholastic Scope 59.15 (2011): 4-9. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.
  7. ^

    "Bethany Hamilton Charity Work, Events and Causes." Look to the Stars. 2013. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <>.
  8. ^

    "3. The Generation of Negative Attitudes." NDA - National Disability Authority. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2013. <$File/literature_review_04.htm>.
  9. ^

    "Leadership Wiki - Practices, Virtues, Leadership, &amp; the Common Good." Leadership Wiki - Practices, Virtues, Leadership, and the Common Good. 2012. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <>.