Bethany Hamilton
Persevering after a shark attack

Halloween morning, October 31, began as a typically beautiful Hawai'i day. At Makua Beach, on the island of Kaua'i's North Shore, the water was clear and the waves were relatively gentle.

Just as she did most mornings, 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton was surfing with her best friend Alana Blanchard and Alana's father and brother. Six other surfers practiced nearby.

An amateur surfing champion ranked No. 8 in the world, Bethany had been planning on a professional surfing career. Just the weekend before, she'd come in second in the National Scholastic Surfing Association contest on the Big Island.

That Friday morning, nobody saw what was coming. At about 7:30 am, a 14-foot tiger shark emerged from the water below Bethany, taking a 17-inch-wide bite out of her orange, white and blue surfboard, and biting off Bethany's left arm just below the shoulder.

Describing the moment to a local reporter, Bethany said, "My arm was hanging in the water and it just came and bit me. It kind of went like this pulling me back and forth. But I just held on to my board and then it let go."

Bethany's friend Alana remembers that Bethany was "really calm."Alana's father took quick action. Another surfer handed him a rubber surf leash, which Holt used as a tourniquet, no doubt saving Bethany's life.

Bethany's orthopedic surgeon, Dr. David Rovinsky, credits Bethany's athletic conditioning for allowing her to survive the shock and blood loss. But Bethany thinks there was more involved: "I might not be here if I hadn't asked for God's help," she said. "I look at everything that's happened as part of God's plan for my life." A fervent Christian, she attends North Shore Christian Church, an evangelical church in Kaua'i.

Bethany is already surfing again. Her brother Noah, 21, said that she never cried once during the whole experience, adding "she wants to try snowboarding, she's tough." Bethany's grace, composure, and positive spirit amazed her doctor, her family, and well-wishers around the world.

Beliefnet member bird:
Bethany amazing, full of courage, optimism, and faith. She paddled to safety despite what must have been intense pain. She went to visit other patients while she was recovering in the hospital who were "worse off" than she. She wants to get right back up on her surfboard. Whenever you see her she is happy and smiling. What incredible resilience!

More on Bethany: Visit the Bethany Hamilton Support Website.

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