Hamilton: Turning Awful To Beautiful

Bethany Hamilton is still surfing. Photo courtesy Mike Coots

Bethany Hamilton is still surfing. Photo courtesy Mike Coots

Few will forget the date: Oct. 31, 2003,

Halloween morning. Thirteen-year-old Bethany Hamilton set out for an early surf session with her mother Cheri, but conditions at Pauaeaka weren’t ideal so they moved on to a spot called Tunnels Beach.

When they arrived, Hamilton ran into her friend Alana Blanchard and Blanchard’s two brothers. Cheri headed home, while the foursome paddled out together.

That morning would forever change Hamilton’s life.

Between sets, the young Hamilton was lying on her board, when a shark struck and then vanished, taking off her left arm below her shoulder.

The horrific event would be the start of a remarkable story of survival and perseverance, and an incredibly long journey to recovery and living a full life.

“It’s been a really long journey,” says Hamilton. “But it’s cool to see how God has taken something that seems so awful and has turned it into something beautiful. And being able to share what I’ve been through with other people and make a difference, it’s really awesome.”

It’s been 10 years since that Halloween morning, and Hamilton continues to be a symbol of hope and inspiration. Her amazing life story and tremendous faith have been shared in a book and on movie screens.

In August, the 23-year-old Hamilton added a new chapter to her life when she married Adam Dirks.

“It’s awesome, we’ve been married for three months now and Adam and I are traveling together,” says Hamilton. “It’s just fun to be able to share the details of life with someone else. It’s like a whole new element to life. It now goes from my dreams to our dreams, and Adam and I are just taking it one step at a time. It’s hard to know what God has in store for us. We just want to honor God together and have a good, healthy marriage.”

Hamilton is a hero to millions of people around the world. Her nonprofit organization Friends of Bethany is dedicated to inspiring people through the life of Hamilton and others while supporting shark attack survivors and amputees.

She recently hosted “Beautifully Flawed,” an intimate retreat for young women ages 15 to 21 who’ve experienced the loss of a least one limb.

The group focused on finding beauty even in scars while sharing inspiring stories and practical tips for girls with limb loss.

“This year we did one of the coolest events I’ve ever been a part of – it was a one-arm girl amputee retreat,” says Hamilton. “We had about 11 girls missing a limb, mostly arms, and had an awesome weekend of encouragement, and took them surfing, and had different speakers. It was really a cool time.”

She and Adam recently returned from a trip to Australia, where she and four other Rip Curl team riders traveled around the country, giving surf lessons and signing autographs while promoting active positive messages.

“It’s definitely a lot more fun traveling,” says Hamilton. “I used to travel on my own or with different friends, but now Adam and I can travel together, so it’s great.”

Several hours after their return, Hamilton and her husband were at Ala Moana Center launching her line of Cobian slippers at Island Sole. She’s excited about her newest venture.

“I’m always cautious about what products I have my name labeled with, and I really admire Cobian because they’re always looking for ways to give back,” says Hamilton. “It’s fun to team up with them and come up with cute slippers because that’s pretty much all I wear. ”

Proceeds from slipper sales will benefit Friends of Bethany.

“I love to be able to give back to the local community and encourage the local kids that they can achieve their dreams and to be thankful for what they have,” says Hamilton. “Giving back to Friends of Bethany is exciting – it’s cool to tie it all together.”