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A Q&A with pro surfer Bethany Hamilton

“I don’t need easy, I just need possible.” – Bethany Hamilton

In 2003 at the age of 13, Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm to a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing in Kauai, Hawaii. Just one month later, Hamilton returned to the water and hasn’t looked back. Overcoming major obstacles, she turned pro in 2007 and has won several surfing titles since.

An accomplished speaker and author, Hamilton continues to compete in surfing competitions. Soul Surfer, a movie that premiered in 2011, highlighted Hamilton’s determination and has inspired millions. When not competing or traveling, Hamilton lives in Hawaii with her husband and their two children.

Readers of Renaissance myON® News got the chance to ask Hamilton about surf culture, the famous shark attack, and what it took to get back on the board.

Brianna, age 8, asked: How does it feel to be a champion surfer?

Hamilton: It feels great to accomplish my goals and live out the dreams I had at your age! It looks a lot different than I expected, but I’m thankful each day to be doing what I love to do most. Hard work has paid off and been a blast!

Annika, age 12, asked: What is your favorite part about surfing?

Hamilton: I really like the creativity, thrill, and the challenge. Riding a wave is kind of like drawing—on a moving canvas! And it’s always challenging me because no wave is the same, and I like learning and trying to get better and better.

Jacob, age 13, asked: What were your feelings about sharks before and after you got attacked?

Hamilton: Sharks are amazing creatures and so important for our planet’s ecosystem. I have a lot of respect for them (and a healthy fear).

Jennifer, age 10, asked: How were everyday tasks different for you after the attack? How did you learn to do them again?

Hamilton: It took a lot of creativity to figure out how to do so many different things differently with one arm. Sometimes I got frustrated, and sometimes I asked for help, but usually, I was able to use my mind to come up with a unique way of doing things!

McKenna, age 12, asked: Is it just as fun to surf with one arm as it was with two?

Hamilton: YES, YES, YES!!!

Ashley, age 13, asked: Do people ever make fun of you for having one arm? If so, how do you cope with that?

Hamilton: Thankfully, I have not dealt with much bullying. But I try not to listen to what other people say if it’s rude and just focus on what I love! I think it’s important to forgive others if they are mean and rise above the immature communication they may use.

Destiny, age 13, asked: What advice do you have for people who want to overcome obstacles and follow their dreams?

Hamilton: Don’t give up! You CAN!

Gabby, age 14, asked: I have read your story. You are very brave, especially since you lost your arm and still could go on. How did you ever get back in the water again?

Hamilton: I knew I had to try surfing with one arm. My fear of not surfing was greater than my fear of sharks. I had to be in the ocean and surf again. It had always been a happy place for me. And I’m SO glad I tried! ‘Cause now it still is a happy place for me!

Mehul, age 9, asked: What has been the greatest surf moment of your life?

Hamilton: For sure, my first wave back after losing my arm. I had tears of joy knowing it was possible.

Gwen, age 10, asked: Out of all the surfing championships, which one was your favorite and why?

Hamilton: The Fiji Pro a few years ago was a favorite for sure. It felt so good to surf amazing powerful waves and knock some of the best surfers in the world out of the competition!

Owen, age 11, asked: Was it difficult for you to learn how to balance again after losing your arm? If so, how did you do that?

Hamilton: I did work on my balance a lot at first. And practicing on land helped! I would use balance boards and other balancing practices.

Reese, age 12, asked: Do you wish the shark attack did not happen?

Hamilton: I would not take it back if I had the chance, because I see how much good God has brought out of something so terrible.

Abigail, age 12, asked: I have watched your movie Soul Surfer multiple times. How accurately do you think that movie shows what you have gone through? Are there any things you would add or change about the movie?

Hamilton: Some of the scenes in the movie (like the shark attack and my dad being in the hospital) were really close to reality! My family and I are happy with how the story turned out. And guess what? I have a new movie coming out on July 12 called Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable that shows the REAL me (not actors) and shows my journey as a pro surfer and real life since then.

Curious to see more? Check out myON News! In addition to fun Q&As with authors and inspiring leaders like Bethany Hamilton, it features age-appropriate news articles for students, reporting on timely topics and current events.

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