‘Soul Surfer’ Bethany Hamilton shares life lessons
Shark-attack victim talks faith, recovery at Glasgow Church
After losing her left arm in a shark attack, it would be easy for Bethany Hamilton to lament what she lost or wish it had never happened.
However, the surfer whose story grabbed worldwide headlines and inspired the 2011 movie “Soul Surfer,” tries not to look at it that way.
“Sometimes it is desirable to think of life with two arms. Life would be simple, straightforward and easy,” Hamilton told a packed house at Glasgow Church on April 8. “But even life with two arms isn’t simple, straightforward and easy. We all have our tough times and struggles.”
Hamilton’s story began in 2003 when, at the age of 13, the aspiring professional surfer was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing near her home in Hawaii. She told the crowd that at first she felt sad but quickly turned her depression into determination.
She was back in the ocean just a month after the attack and taught herself how to get on her surfboard and keep her balance with only one arm. Within two years, she won a national title and in 2007, turned pro.
Now 26, Hamilton is popular on the speaker circuit and is involved in several charitable efforts, including running a camp for young girls who have lost limbs.
Explaining that she doesn’t like to talk about the shark attack, Hamilton focused most of her presentation on the role her faith played in her recovery.
“I think God has a reason for our pain and He wants to carry us through these hard times,” she said.
Hamilton noted that her story, and the attention it brought her, gave her a platform to help others.
“If by losing my arm, I’m then able to share my story with people who are suffering pains and losses, it makes it all worth it,” she said.
The event was organized by MARKINC Ministries, which was founded by Glasgow Church pastor Chuck Betters and his wife, Sharon, after they lost their 16-year-old son Mark in a car accident in 1993.
The Betterses record interviews – which they call “resources” – with people who have experienced various types of loss and tragedy. They then distribute the resources online, on the radio and via CD to help others through their grief.
Hamilton’s visit, which also included a Saturday brunch event at Deerfield Country Club, kicked off a new series of resources for kids. The Betterses recorded an interview with Hamilton talking about body image, and other topics in the series will include depression, bullying, cutting and eating disorders.
“Teens by the millions are struggling with all sorts of issues,” Chuck Betters said. “So many things are being thrown at our young people, and they don’t know what to do with it.”
Addressing the kids in the audience, Hamilton said it can be easy to make bad choices while growing up.
“It’s really important to surround yourself with people who uplift and encourage you,” she said.
Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who overcame losing her arm in a shark attack, holds her 10-month-old son, Tobias, as her husband, Adam Dirks, looks on.
Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who overcame losing her arm in a shark attack, speaks at Glasgow Church.