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Bethany Hamilton. Hard to find a better role model. Photo: WSL

Bethany Hamilton. Hard to find a better role model. Photo: WSL


The Inertia

If you googled the word “inspirational,” a picture of Bethany Hamilton ought to be the first image to appear on the screen.

Much has been spoken, shared, and, indeed, written about Bethany’s amazing run at the recent Fiji Womens Pro, but it still doesn’t seem to do justice to the remarkable woman that Bethany has become. Watching her paddle into set waves at cloud break, lay her board on the rail with speed, power, and style, and see her negotiate the use of the jet ski assistance during the event – left me a little slack-jawed.

In case you hadn’t had the privilege of knowing Bethany’s story: She lost her left arm at the shoulder when she was 13 years old after an attack from a Tiger Shark while surfing with some friends. Fast forward 13 years, and she has just claimed 3rd place in a World Championship Tour event, with world number 1 (at the start of the event), Tyler Wright and 6 times world champion Stephanie Gilmore two of the more impressive scalps she bagged along the way.

Obviously, there are a bunch of amazing feats that happened between the attack and the semi-final placing this week, each deserving a write up of their own, but for the sake of context, we might go with a quick summary.

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Bethany started surfing again just 1 month after losing her arm, she released an amazing biopic of her story called Soul Surfer, which turned into a film starring Hollywood big hitters Helen Hunt and Dennis Quad, she married youth pastor Adam Dirk, and even starred in the reality TV show, The Amazing Race. She gives inspirational talks around the world on faith, family, and fighting back, and she joined the big-wave fraternity by surfing giant Jaws and Teahupoo (while pregnant). Not to mention, about a year ago she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Tobias.

While we all pause and take a collective deep breath, I am tempted to stop right there and ponder my own contribution to the world, but I get the sense that’s not what Bethany’s about.

She’s just a fighter that didn’t go around the hurdle she faced, she got up, and smashed straight through it.

So what can we learn from this remarkable young lady?

Never give up.

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After the attack, Bethany must have been sitting at the proverbial crossroads of her relatively young life. She had a choice to make. Stay stagnant in the soft sand of self-pity, or pick herself up and get back out there. She never looked at her situation as a handicap, never even contemplated a detour around the hurdle.

From her point of view, there was always hope, and not only did she hold onto that, but she never gave up. They say “where there is a will, there is a way.” It seems like Bethany found both.

Attitude.

“Looking at the world through Bethany-colored glasses” should be the title of her next book. To never give up is one thing, but to do it with a good attitude in the midst of the practical challenges she would face on a daily basis is nothing short of extraordinary.

I wasn’t going to use the “glass half full” cliché here because Bethany smashes that theory, too. Quite simply; her cup runneth over no matter the circumstance.

Bust the myths.

You can’t surf with one arm. Busted. You could never surf big waves with one arm. Busted. You could never compete at the top level with one arm. Busted.

You cannot achieve all your dreams because of your circumstance. Busted. Bethany’s new movie Surf’s Like a Girl might just bust a few more.

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Gratitude.

Bethany always seems to be smiling. It’s not just a surface level smile either; it seems to have its origins deep within her. No doubt it is anchored in her hardly hidden faith, but it always seems to appear on a cloud of grace, love and… gratitude for the life she (still) is able to lead, despite all she has gone through and achieved.

If I were to pick a role model for myself, my kids or even my business to follow – it would be hard to go past this inspiring young lady. Thanks Bethany.

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