Inspirational Women: Bethany Hamilton

Written by: Claire Dawkins

ByLil is a company for women, by women. So we relish the opportunity to celebrate some important, and inspirational women; starting of course, with swimmers, surfers, and other water-sport athletes. Our first woman is someone you might already know from her inspirational talks, memoirs, books, documentaries, and movies: Bethany Hamilton. 

Bethany Hamilton is not only an amazing athlete but also a prime example of resilience and how to overcome obstacles. Bethany was born in Hawaii on February 8th, 1990 into a surfing family. Bethany defied the odds of her age group and began professional surfing at only eight years old. 

Her future as a competitive surfer, however, came to a dramatic and life-threatening halt when she was13- Bethany had been attacked by a shark. 

On the early morning of October 31st, 2003 Bethany was out surfing with a friend and while paddling to a wave, she felt a tug on her arm and it began to swing aggressively back and forth. Bethany explains that she somehow felt no pain, and only realized that her arm had been severed off at the shoulder when she looked down and saw the blood in the water. Without her realizing, Bethany’s arm had been bitten off by a tiger shark. Her friend’s father quickly got them out of the water and rushed them to the hospital. Even though Bethany lost 60 percent of her blood yet, miraculously, she survived the shark attack.

Just a month after the attack, Bethany began to surf again. Bethany went on to show the world that this shark attack would not hold her back from her dreams of surfing professionally, going on to win the Explorers Women’s division at the 2005 National Scholastic Surfing Association’s National Championships and began competing as a Pro in 2007.

Bethany went on to win medals, competitions, and championships- all of which brought her, even more, media attention. Since the attack, Bethany has had at least 6 documentaries and movies made about her; she has written or contributed to at least 9 books, and has coached and given talks at countless events.

Beyond her professional life as a public speaker and athlete, Bethany is married and has three sons. Bethany has always been remarkable because her dedication to surfing and sharing her story has made her a woman that is hard to forget. 

ByLil is passionate about highlighting strong, inspiring, resilient, and kind women, just like Bethany. 


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Surf, T. S. S. (2021, June 30). 10 inspiring women surfers. The Salt Sirens.