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Bethany Hamilton’s 'Beautifully Flawed' Foundation Helps Those Who've Suffered Limb Loss

Surfing is stil at the core of the Beautifully Flawed Retreats. Photo: Lorenzo Menendez//BFR

The Inertia

Bethany Hamilton has been a household name in the surf world for years. In 2007, at 13, the Kauai native lost her left arm in a shark attack. Since, Hamilton has turned tragedy into purpose and has used her story to inspire and empower others through her surfing and her non-profit, the Beautifully Flawed Foundation. We caught up with Hamilton’s close friend and the foundation’s executive director, Sarah Hill, to learn the backstory behind the foundation, the different programs they offer, and plans for the future.

What was the inspiration behind Beautifully Flawed? 

This organization was established as ‘Friends of Bethany’ in 2007 by the friends and family of Bethany Hamilton when she lost her arm. Empowered by the generosity of a community to support medical expenses and bring comfort in a time of great loss, the Hamilton family decided to use the excess financial contributions to send gifts to other victims of limb loss. As Bethany overcame her own accident and became one of the most iconic surf legends in the world, her Beautifully Flawed Retreats for young women with limb loss was one of service and encouragement to girls who had faced similar traumatic experiences.

Bethany Hamilton’s 'Beautifully Flawed' Foundation Helps Those Who've Suffered Limb Loss

Bethany Hamilton is very much involved in the retreats. Photo: Lorenzo Menendez//BFR

How has Beautifully Flawed evolved since its inception?

Originally the organization had a narrow reach. But once Soul Surfer (depicting Bethany’s story), was released in 2013, we realized how great of an impact we could make. With the newfound awareness the film brought, the organization expanded its reach to retreats for those who face limb difference, conferences, and youth events. In 2021, Friends of Bethany rebranded to the Beautifully Flawed Foundation. (The idea) was to provide a platform for others to shine through their incredible stories, without her name distracting from them. 

What is the mission of BF?

To offer hope to overcome. We believe that in every individual there are three core pillars in accomplishing this: physical, spiritual, and mental. We believe these are some of the greatest needs in the world, thus, you will see these core values weaved throughout all our programs. We offer tools and resources to help others live life to the fullest. We believe it is important to be honest and true to our faith, making sure that everything we do is centered around our passion for the gospel of Christ and our desire to share the love of God with the broken world. 

Bethany Hamilton’s 'Beautifully Flawed' Foundation Helps Those Who've Suffered Limb Loss

BFR are all about coming together and empowerment. Photo: Lorenzo Menendez//BFR

What programs do you offer?

Our retreats for men and women who face limb difference are our most prized programs we offer. The retreats have grown to become a five-day immersive experience. We encourage attendees to step out of their comfort zone and try new things like surfing with professional coaches as well as Bethany herself. They learn how to adapt specific exercises, increase physical awareness and strength, and learn practical tools of stress management through breath work, bodywork, and posture practice. Our team works hard to show attendees their worth and to inspire hope that comes through shared experiences with others. 

In addition to our retreats, we host a variety of conferences for youth, along with conferences for young women to find their true beauty and worth. Friends of Bethany is our first response program — we send care packages out to those whose families have reached out to us within days of someone close to them facing limb loss. We also host an event called Shine Forth — this is a platform we created to help our attendees share their inspiring stories with others. 

How involved is Bethany in the programs?

Since we model all our programs after the things that are near and dear to Bethany, she is very involved. She loves the retreats, seeing lives changed, and being able to make a greater impact through her one-on-one time with the attendees. She has shared these are some of the highlights of her year.

Bethany Hamilton’s 'Beautifully Flawed' Foundation Helps Those Who've Suffered Limb Loss

Fitness is a significant aspect of the BFR. Photo: Lorenzo Menendez//BFR

What has the reaction been like from program participants? 

We have seen so many find healing and purpose in their stories through our events. Many have gone on to start businesses, become speakers, and inspire others in their communities who have faced trauma. It is the honor of a lifetime to see the change that takes place from those who have participated in our retreats. 

What does the future of BF look like?

We are excited to work on developing our newest program, the Forge men’s retreat. We hope that BF can be an umbrella for more men’s events. We also hope to provide more retreats throughout the year. We keep our retreats small to provide a safe and healing atmosphere, which means we often have to turn down applicants. In offering more retreats, we can reach more people. We are working to develop a mentorship program for attendees, in hopes that they find an even greater platform to inspire others. The sky is the limit for our team — we are dreaming up some big dreams but growing at a pace that is healthy and steady.

You can learn more about the Beautifully Flawed program here. 


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