Bethany Hamilton

Bethany Meilani Hamilton (born February 8, 1990) is an American professional surfer and actress who survived a 2003 shark attack in which her left arm was bitten off and who ultimately returned to professional surfing. She wrote about her experience in the 2004 autobiography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, which was adapted into the 2011 feature film Soul Surfer. She was also the subject of a 2013 documentary, Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable.

Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton surfing (sq cropped).jpg
Hamilton surfing in September 2016
Personal information
BornBethany Meilani Hamilton
(1990-02-08) February 8, 1990 (age 31)
Lihue, Hawaii, U.S.
ResidenceKauai, Hawaii, U.S.
Height5 ft 11 in (180 cm)[1]
Weight154 lb (70 kg)
Surfing career
Best year2020
Major achievementsESPY Award (2004)
NSSA National Helping Kids Champion (2005)
2nd place, ASP World Junior Championships (2008)

Early lifeEdit

Hamilton was born on February 8, 1990, to Tom (born September 13, 1948) and Cheri Hamilton (born February 14, 1952).[2] She has two older brothers Noah (born December 7, 1981) and Timothy (born June 14, 1986). After learning how to surf at the age of three, she began surfing competitively at the age of eight and gained her first sponsorship by age nine.[3] Hamilton was home-schooled from 6th grade through high school by her mother, a housewife. Her father was a waiter at a town cafe. She is a Christian.[4]

Personal lifeEdit

In early 2012, Hamilton met youth minister[5] Adam Dirks through mutual friends.[6] They became engaged in 2013.[7][8] The couple was married on August 18, 2013, at an estate on Kauai's north shore, near where she grew up.[9][10] The couple have a son named Tobias, born on June 1, 2015.[11] On March 27, 2018, they had a second son, Wesley. On February 14, 2021, they had a third son, Micah.

Shark attack and recoveryEdit

On October 31, 2003, Hamilton, aged 13 at the time, went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai, with her best friend Alana Blanchard, Alana's father and brother. While lying on her surfboard belly-down and talking with Alana, a 14-foot-long (4.3 m) tiger shark attacked her.[12] The shark swiftly bit off her left arm, which she had been dangling in the water, just below the shoulder. The Blanchards helped paddle her back to shore, then Alana's father fashioned a tourniquet out of a rash guard and wrapped it around the stump of her arm. She was rushed to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. By the time she arrived there, she had lost over 60% of her blood and was in hypovolemic shock. A doctor living in a hotel nearby raced to the rescue. Her father, who was scheduled to have knee surgery that same morning, was already there, but she took his place in the operating room. During subsequent media interviews, she confirmed that she felt normal when she was bitten and did not feel much pain from the bite, but felt numb on the way to the hospital.[citation needed]

Hamilton surfing in March 2007

When the news broke of the shark attack, a family of fishermen led by Ralph Young presented to investigators photos of a 14-foot-long (4.3 m) tiger shark they had caught and killed about one mile from the attack site. It had surfboard debris in its mouth. When measurements of its mouth were compared with those of Hamilton's broken board, it matched. In late 2004, the police officially confirmed that it was the same one that had attacked her.[citation needed]

Despite the trauma of the incident, Hamilton was determined to return to surfing.[4] One month after the attack, she returned to her board.[13]

Initially, she adopted a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker than standard and had a handle for her right arm, making it easier to paddle, and she learned to kick more to make up for the loss of her left arm. After teaching herself to surf with one arm, she returned to surfing on November 26, 2003, just 26 days after the attack and entered her first major competition on January 10, 2004.[2] She now uses standard competitive performance short-boards.[14] The shark-bitten surfboard that Hamilton was riding during the attack, as well as the bathing suit she was wearing at the time, a gift from ocean photographer Aaron Chang, are on display at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California.[15][16]


Since the attack she has appeared as a guest on numerous television shows. Her manager, Roy "Dutch" Hofstetter, who went on to produce the film Soul Surfer, managed her rise through the media from shark attack victim to inspirational role model. The television shows she has appeared on include The Amazing Race, The Biggest Loser, 20/20, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, The Tonight Show and Dude Perfect, as well as in the magazines People, Time, and American Girl. Additionally she was the cover story in the first issue of niNe magazine.[17]

She has participated in multiple public speaking events and is "motivating audiences worldwide to live their life with more tenacity, courage, and faith".[2]

In 2004 she won the ESPY Award for Best Comeback Athlete[18] and also received the Courage Teen Choice Award.[19]

In 2004 MTV Books published Hamilton's book, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, which describes her ordeal. Her story is also told in the 2007 short subject documentary film Heart of a Soul Surfer. Described as a "faith-based documentary", the film addresses her devout Christianity and the courage and faith in Jesus Christ in the aftermath of the shark attack, and follows her quest for spiritual meaning.[20][21]

In 2009 she was a contestant on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? and won $25,000. In 2010 she appeared on an episode of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

In 2011 Hamilton appeared in a video for the Christian organization I Am Second, telling of her struggle after the shark attack and how she trusted in God to get her through it.[22] In 2011 a feature film Soul Surfer, based on her 2004 book, was released in theaters. Hamilton was portrayed by actress AnnaSophia Robb. Hamilton herself performed all the one-armed surfing stunts in it.[23]

She also appeared on the TLC series 19 Kids and Counting the same year, in the episode titled "Duggars Under the Sea", when the Duggar family visited her in Atlanta, Georgia.[24]

Hamilton plays herself in the film Dolphin Tale 2, which revolves around the baby dolphin Hope's story.[25] Hamilton and her husband, Adam Dirks, competed as a team on the 25th season of The Amazing Race, finishing in third place. It premiered in 2014 on CBS.[26]

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is set to tell the story of her transition from childhood to motherhood. "From chasing her toddler to chasing the biggest waves. Bethany is continuously re-writing the rules on being a fearless athlete, and brings a new meaning to the phrase, 'Surf Like a Girl'".[27]


Hamilton has published eight books with her mom publishing one about her story.

Book title Authors Year published Plot
Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board Bethany Hamilton, Rick Bundschuh, and Sheryl Berk 2004 Autobiography detailing the time leading up to the shark attack, how she recovered, dealt with media attention, and how she ultimately got back on the board and returned to competition
Devotions for the Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton 2006, reprinted in 2011 Christian devotional book for young girls
Rise Above: A 90-day Devotional Bethany Hamilton 2007 Christian devotional for young girls discussing both "hot and cool topics that every young girl faces" [2]
Ask Bethany: FAQs: Surfing, Faith, and Friends Bethany Hamilton 2007 Bethany answers questions discussing faith and how it has helped her throughout her life
'Raising a Soul Surfer: One Family's Epic Tale Cheri Hamilton, Rick Bundschuh 2011 This book was written by Hamilton's Mom and provides the story of Bethany's shark attack through the perspective of her parents.
Body and Soul: A Girl's Guide to a Fit, Fun, and Fabulous Life Bethany Hamilton, Dustin Dillberg 2014 Provides readers with guidelines to become their healthiest self and practice a fit lifestyle. Includes workouts, healthy recipes, and tips for coping with stress[2]
Ask Bethany: Bethany Answers Over 200 Questions from Girls Like You Bethany Hamilton, Doris Rikkers 2014, reprinted 2016 Bethany answers fan questions about "a wide variety of topics about her life and faith" [2]
Be Unstoppable: The Art of Never Giving Up Bethany Hamilton 2018 In this book Bethany "inspires readers to be bold, enjoy life, and take risk of trusting God each day. Includes photos, inspiration quotes, and life lessons from Hamilton [2]
Unstoppable Me Bethany Hamilton, Adam Dirks, illustrated by Gill Guile 2018 Children's book based on Bethany's story. It follows Makana the lion who enjoys surfing but loses her nerve after wiping out on the water. With the help of her friends she rediscovers her love for surfing.[28]

Outreach programsEdit

Hamilton is involved in numerous charitable efforts, including her own foundation, Friends of Bethany,[29] which reaches out to amputees and youth, encouraging them to overcome difficulties by offering hope through Jesus Christ. Using her platform as a professional athlete to promote living a fit and healthy lifestyle, she authored the book Body and Soul in 2014. In 2019, a surf documentary was made about her, Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable',[30][31] which was accompanied by a photo book and a children's book.[32]

Within the Friends of Bethany Foundation there are four different programs:

  • Beautifully Flawed: retreat designed for young women ages 14–25 who have experienced traumatic limb loss. Six events hosted annually through this program which include: guests speakers, practical health and wellness tips which specifically account for limb loss, postural training, and surf lessons.[33]
  • Shine Forth: Night filled with stories and inspiration to overcome, free community event to gather together and share comeback stories. Bethany also does a book signing at this event, which is hosted annually.[33]
  • Anchored in Love: Conference for girls and young women ages 12 and up, one day event designed to help girls and young women discover their true beauty, purpose, and worth. Event is held annually in San Diego and features several guest speakers.[33]
  • The Forge: Men's retreat where young male amputees come and focus on faith, fitness, and healthy living. This program is run by Bethany, her husband, and friend/mentor Mike Coots.[33]

Surfing careerEdit

Placings in surf competitions
Year Event Place Country
1998 Rell Sunn Menehune 1st Australia
2002 Open Women's Division of the NSSA 1st U.S.
2004 NSSA National Competition 1st Australia
2005 NSSA National Competition 1st U.S.
2006 NSSA National Championship: 18-and-under Finalist 5th U.S.
2006 Hawaii Team Highlights 4th
2007 NSSA Regionals 1st U.S.
2007 T & C Pipeline Women's Pro 1st U.S.
2008 US Open of Surfing—Huntington Beach, California 5th U.S.
2008 Roxy Pro Surf Festival—Phillip Island 3rd Australia
2008 ASP's World Qualifying Series 14th
2009 Rio Surf International in Rio de Janeiro 3rd Brazil
2009 WSL's World Qualifying Series 14th Peru
2009 Billabong ASP World Junior Championship 2nd Australia
2012 Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang Indonesia
2014 Surf 'n' Sea Pipeline Women's Pro 1st U.S.
2015 Swatch Women's Pro[34] 13th U.S.
2016 Fiji Women's Pro[35] 3rd Fiji


  1. ^ "Bethany Hamilton Surfer Bio". World Surf League. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Bethany Hamilton | Soul Surfer, Professional Surfer, Role Model, Inspiration". Bethany Hamilton. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  3. ^ "Bethany Hamilton". Biography. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Homeschool World - Articles - Soul Survivor: The Bethany Hamilton Story - Practical Homeschooling Magazine". October 31, 2003. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  5. ^ Dodd, Johnny (March 28, 2014). "Bethany Hamilton: My Husband Keeps Me Surfing". People. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
  6. ^ Webber, Stephanie (August 18, 2013). "Pro Surfer Bethany Hamilton Marries Adam Dirks". Us Weekly. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  7. ^ Wicks, Krista (May 7, 2013). "Surfer Bethany Hamilton Engaged". Entertainment Tonight. Archived from the original on May 9, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  8. ^ "Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton Engaged to Wed Youth Minister Adam Dirks". July 12, 2013.
  9. ^ "Bethany Hamilton's Official Wedding Photo". Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  10. ^ "Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton Gets Married to Christian Youth Minister Adam Dirks". August 18, 2013.
  11. ^ Herreria, Carla (June 15, 2015). "Bethany Hamilton Introduces New Baby Boy With Adorable Family Photo". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
  12. ^ "About". Bethany's General Biography. 2003. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  13. ^ Clark, Mark (September 24, 2011). "Soul Surfer Interview With Bethany Hamilton!". WhatCulture!. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  14. ^ "Bethany Hamilton – Amputee Surfer | The Injury Cooperative". Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  15. ^ Bagley, Guy. "Current Exhibits". Archived from the original on August 6, 2013. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  16. ^ Museum Exhibit (Permanent Exhibit). "Courageous Inspiration: Bethany Hamilton" Archived September 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine California Surf Museum. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Shark attack survivor discusses products and jewelry lines in new mag" Archived April 11, 2016, at the Wayback Machine by Lanaly Cabali, The Garden Island, June 30, 2006.
  18. ^ "The 2004 ESPY Awards winners". ESPN. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  19. ^ Silverman, Stephen M. (August 9, 2004). "Lindsay Lohan Top Teen Choice Awards". People. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  20. ^ "Heart of a Soul Surfer". Walking on Water. Archived from the original on July 1, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  21. ^ "Heart of a Soul Surfer: The Bethany Hamilton Movie". Archived from the original on May 23, 2019. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  22. ^ "One-Armed Surfing Star Bethany Hamilton on Trusting God". Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  23. ^ Pilkington, Maria (September 27, 2011). "Bethany Hamilton (Soul Surfer) Interview". The 405. Archived from the original on December 30, 2011. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  24. ^ "19 Kids & Counting: Duggars Take on Atlanta Aquarium and Fall Sends One Duggar to ER!". Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  25. ^ "Bethany Hamilton Appears in New 'Dolphin Tale 2'". June 17, 2014. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  26. ^ "Cast features survivor veterans, surfer Bethany Hamilton". May 31, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
  27. ^ "Bethany's Story". Bethany Hamilton. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  28. ^ Unstoppable Me: Adam Dirks: 9780310764977.
  29. ^ "Friends of Bethany Hamilton – A non-profit which reaches out to encourage a broken world offering hope to overcome through Jesus Christ". Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  30. ^ Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable (2018) IMDb. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  31. ^ "BETHANY HAMILTON: UNSTOPPABLE". Unstoppable. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  32. ^ "Bethany Hamilton | Unstoppable Books". Retrieved June 6, 2018.[permanent dead link]
  33. ^ a b c d "Friends of Bethany". Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  34. ^ "Prizes & Placing - Swatch Women's Pro Women's 2015". World Surf League.
  35. ^ "Results - Fiji Women's Pro Women's 2016". World Surf League.

External linksEdit