SERF Academy Director
bethany hamilton

Bethany, always smiling. Photo: ASP International.


The Inertia

The next day, after word had spread through the islands, Laird Hamilton called his father, the legendary surfer/fisherman Billy Hamilton, and told him if he didn’t go out and kill this fucking shark, he was going to do it himself. Fourteen days later, much to the outrage of the indigenous Hawaiian population, Billy and Ralph Young hauled to the beach a fourteen-foot tiger shark with a ragged dorsal fin. It took a gutted five-foot gray shark as bait and a barbed hook the size of dinner plate. Butchering it offshore away from prying eyes, they found no evidence of Bethany’s arm, her watch, or the 18-inch semi-circle of surfboard that the shark had taken with it. The shark would have long before regurgitated the irritating fiberglass and foam and probably the arm with it. However, removing the jaws and matching them to Bethany’s board revealed a perfect forensic fit to within 2 micrometers. Aside from the jaws, the only other part of the shark that was saved was a section of its dusky, striped skin. This skin was presented to Boy Akana, local Kahuna, who would fashion it into a ceremonial drum to call on the ancient spirits to calm the seas. Governor Lingle would decree in a public statement that the matter was now closed and that the tourist industry should “just get back to normal”.

Seven days later, Bethany Hamilton pays a visit to Ralph Young’s compound with Billy Hamilton and her father Tom. She is there to visit the jaws that took her arm. Crouching beside the bloody things in the middle of the lawn, they come up to her shoulder. For long moments the men stand around uncomfortably as she curiously pokes at the razor sharp teeth one by one. Then she looks up at Billy Hamilton and asks if she can have some of the teeth for a necklace she would like to make. An amulet to protect her in the future. The men are so stunned that nobody speaks.

Upon leaving the compound with her Father, Bethany is overheard saying to herself, I hope I don’t have dreams.

On the way home, with a sleeping Bethany next to him in the car, Tom Hamilton begins to hum a tune he hasn’t heard since he was in the U.S. Navy as a young gunner’s mate. His lips move slightly as he recalls the words of the Navy Hymn:

“Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm does bind the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep,
Its own appointed limits keep,
O hear us when we cry to thee,
For those in peril on the sea.”

Driving on through the rain, these are the only words Tom Hamilton can remember.

He reaches out to softly take his daughter’s hand, but it is not there.

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  • Stu

    Do you think a shark is full after eating a human arm?

  • brenton

    heavy, and extremely well written.

  • Becky

    Pretty f****ed and over dramatic. A shark hunts for its food, it injured someone that came into its habitat… so you kill it for what? Revenge? The animal didn’t have any ill intent, just instinct. ‘Testing them, feeling their fear, waiting for her time.’ It wasn’t a serial killer. Humans are the only animals truly capable of evil.

    Don’t get me wrong, I feel terrible for what happened to Bethany, but killing the shark really served no sensible purpose.

    • Guest

      I agree.  It was a horrible accident and nothing more.  I really wish people would be less ignorant about sharks so others can start to appreciate and understand.

    • well, as far as I know they kill sharks that attacked people not because of revenge… but to avoid future attacks.. since it kind of “found food here”…

      Since human meat is not the shark’s favorite meal…it was not trying to kill her, it bite her, “realized” that she wasn’t a seal or…sea lion.. and didn’t try to “eat the rest”… but it’s out there, with its teeth and all, you know?

      and, think for a moment if Bethany was your daughter or sister… would you hug the shark, and: “oh, that’s ok, she was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, her fault”

      last thing: Bethany herself is involved with non-governmental organizations that protect sharks from “shark haters and fishers”, you know? 🙂

    • tracie

      Dear Jesus…forgive me but becky, you sound like a fool. That poor girl with a beautiful heart and soul NEVER said a bad word about that shark…she was doing a sport she loved and was with friends and yes,the shark did what sharks do…but really? You sound like a fool. It was destroyed ad it had been a prior concern and to save future lives. Noone should feel bad about that. Bethany was a great child/teen that spent her free time in the ocean she loved doing an activity and sport she was blessed to love and if it were your child or the place your childs sport as well as many other peoples water sports were actively used for,wouldnt you as a responsible adult/parent/and general human being take any precaution necessary to rid an already problematic predator from MANY people,young and old, from obvious harm? It was not destroyed just because….so please remember that and pray that you never have a child almost fatally injured doing a beautiful sport….in days when young teens are so torn between doing good and living a happy and healthy Godly life or having to fend off the peer pressures of drugs etc. I love all Gods creations and i believe He will forgive destroying the shark and i also believe the Lord is greatly pleased with the amazing young woman,Bethany,that He saved. She is a miracle and a wonderful example of human strength and the super power of Gods love.

      • Tamara

        I disagree and believe much like Becky. I am a Christian as well and have respect for all of God’s creatures. The shark did not knock on anyone’s door and bite them. You enter the water , you take the risk. Absolutely no need to hunt and killed the shark for doing what God created it to do. You don’t want to be bitten? Then stay out of the water. Common sense .

      • Dave M

        Tracie, you have no clue about reality and the way the Earth works. Humans are one small part of the Earth’s history. We die, just like dinosaurs and other beings die everyday. The Earth goes on. Nothing more important than the other. Because that works and is how this planet has been since us as humans can even begin to think about as far as time is concerned and life. Without facts and science, we would still be believeing all the crazy and dumbs theories of the people that tried to convince everyone that they KNEW where we are, who we are, and why, and our history. Let me ask you this. Do you know why life exists? Do you know what all this means? Can you truly explain a human being and its magical existence? Can you explain the sun, what it is, why it exists? How about consciousness? How about spirituality? How about life and death? Based on facts of course. Not bullshit make believe stories that have zero base or facts or proof? Can you? I didn’t think so. So go take a hike and please don’t comment when you have nothing to add. What you’ve added here is worthless and a waste of all of our collective time. You don’t know anything about anything. So please refrain from trying to sound smart when you aren’t. Plus, you are not solving or helping anything with your narrow-minded, simple-minded thoughts and beliefs. You are such the sad example of the clones that live on Earth that respond with moronic, stupid, baseless comments about the Earth, existence, and time and life that you don’t know anything about. You are a disgrace to human kind with your tunnel vision. You need a lot of help to open your mind and see things as they truly are and enjoy the mysteries of life. Stop being such a boring worthless human, cloned in behavior and belief like everyone else. Be an individual for once in your short, fun, scary, mysterious life!

        Im sorry but if you die, it doesn’t matter. Same as if I die. So what. The Earth goes on, nothing changes, the Sun is still there and life will go on without you or me.

        • Wow. That was harsh. This is a forum for people to share their opinions, is it not? Tracie didn’t harm anyone by sharing hers and has every right to do so without being subjected to hateful insults and pompous personal attacks. You may think she’s ridiculous but she didn’t lower herself to name calling and condescension. I think the way we treat others, especially those who oppose us, speaks more to who is “a disgrace to human kind” (sic).

  • bethany

    i feel teribble for her my dad said if a shark did that to me ……. he would beat it with the board
    sense less i would do the same thing to the shark that bit bethany.

    they killed the shark because it mit have biten another persons arm off  so u get my point

  • disqus_ACPqKqGXFY

    hi bethany my name is jessie woods i come from auckland i am so good you are ok i saw the movie of it it was good it sad that your arm gone froma a shak have a good day i am 14 year old now went the shak got you it was in 2003 i was 4or5

  • disqus_ACPqKqGXFY

    hi good ok ok

  • hannahbananacupcake

    Don’t die Bethany!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Timothy Rigney

    Not sure the “artistic/creative” tone of the description of the shark attack itself was really appropriate, to be honest. It embellishes a lot and I feel it gives too poetic a tone to an incident that was, honestly, ultimately simple. A shark saw her, people are food to sharks, it took her arm off. Honestly, there wasn’t anything more to the incident itself. I feel it’s not right to turn it into that kind of “poetry.”

    • Timothy Rigney

      And by the way – *just* something to consider and possibly learn from – – read the article *closely* – it touches on a tiny little detail that the movie seems to have intentionally avoided: The shark was known to have been “harassing” surfers in that specific location for weeks now. The implications are unmistakable as is the lack of oversight. *Not* to be judgmental; just something to learn from. People are human – they make mistakes – and apparently there WAS a mistake made. More than one mistake actually, by more than one person. Just something to think about.

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