Along for the Ride
Ask Bethany Hamilton about surfing and you’ll see the young, blonde’s eyes gloss over in contemplation. She’s not ignoring you or trying to formulate an eloquent answer to your question. On the contrary, Bethany’s lost in thought picturing the waves, feeling the salty spray…maybe even wishing the interview was over so she could hop back on her board and catch the afternoon tide. If you couldn’t tell by the glint in Bethany’s eye as she stares off into the great expanse of blue sky and foaming sea, and you asked her how she feels when she’s riding the waves, Bethany’s likely to draw in a deep breath and slowly reply, “Complete freedom and happiness.”
From a long-term family of surfers, Bethany Hamilton has been rocking the waves since she was a small girl. Even after a life-changing accident in 2003 involving a 14-foot tiger shark, Bethany takes on her board and the ocean and continues to surf her heart out. “Surfing has always been a passion…a way of life.” And always will be. Soon after her accident, Bethany won 5th place in the National Surfing Championship, and in August of 2005 placed 1st in the Hawaii NSSA Open Women’s division (National Scholastic Surfing Association). In the 2005 NSSA National Championships, Bethany again dominated, taking 1st place in the Explorer Women’s division.
While Bethany continues to surf for fun and various competitions, her teenage life is anything but relaxing and carefree. Most recently Bethany has come out with a fragrance line: Stoked for the gals and Wired to Live for the guys. Beauty products released by Revelations and inspired by Bethany are popping up all over the country. Claire’s has even picked up Bethany’s products, including a line of beach-themed, colorful jewelry promoting the philosophy “Never give up”—a pertinent message mixing the value of having fun with the importance of determination.
Besides smelly-goodness and sparkling accessories, Bethany is working closely with a Washington-based non-profit organization called World Vision. Bethany is currently working to raise $50,000 for the organization, money which will benefit disabled children all over the world. Donations are sent to several different countries where approximately 120 million children are plagued with disabilities of varying degrees. Besides difficulties in getting medical supplies and care, many of these children are abandoned or neglected by parents and society. Even just $25 can help provide a child a prosthetic limb. “This contribution is a dream come true.”
In 2005, Bethany released a book about her life and the accident called Soul Surfer. Upon reaching the national best-seller list, Hollywood called. Ring, ring…let’s make a movie. Production is slated to commence this year, and casting calls have already begun for a full-length film of the same title. The film will be a recount of Bethany’s journey through the shark attack—focused on the strength of a precious family bond, an unmoving faith, and the power of passion that moved a young woman to follow her dreams.
Forget Hollywood, forget the fame and fortune, the products, even lay aside the waves (for just a moment!), and there’s Bethany, a normal gal who draws her strength from a very deep faith in Jesus Christ, her family, and devoted friends. “I love my family, and everything I do is connected to that. Isn’t that the way it should be?” As for her impact on the world and young women everywhere, Bethany says, “I’m continually surprised and honored that what’s natural for me has led to a platform for helping many to be inspired through their trials and tribulations. I hope to deserve this by continuing to achieve different goals.”
You’re wrapping up your chat with Bethany Hamilton and you can tell—her heart’s with the ocean. Her eyes are glazed over again and you just know she’s thinking about the freedom of the ocean expanse, with its tossing, board-worthy waves. Suddenly you realize—if you want to know Bethany’s heart, if you really want a glimpse of what makes her tick and smile and breathe…well, you’ll just have to watch her ride.