Bethany Meilani Hamilton (born February 8, 1990), daughter of Thomas and Cherilyn Hamilton, is an American professional surfer. She is known for surviving a shark attack in which she lost her left arm, and for overcoming the serious and debilitating injury to ultimately return to professional surfing. She wrote about her experience in the 2011 biography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. In April 2011, the feature film Soul Surfer was released, based on the book and additional interview.
Shark attack and recovery
On October 31, 2003, Hamilton went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach,Kauai with friend Alana Blanchard along with Blanchard's father and brother. Around 7:30 a.m., with numerous turtles in the area, she was lying sideways on her surfboard with her left arm dangling in the water, when a 14ft (4.3m)tiger shark attacked ripping her left arm off just below the shoulder. If the shark had bitten two inches further in, the attack would have been fatal. She lost over 60% of her blood. Her friends helped paddle her back to shore, and fashioned a tourniquet out of a surfboard leash around what was left of her arm before rushing her to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. Her father was supposed to have knee surgery that morning but she took his place in the operating room. She then spent seven more days in recovery at the hospital.
Despite the trauma of the incident, Hamilton was determined to return to surfing. Less than one month after the incident, she returned to her board and went surfing again. Initially, she adopted a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker, which made it easier to paddle. She has observed that she has to kick a lot more to make up for the loss of her left arm. After teaching herself to surf with one arm, she has again begun surfing competitively. She is now back to using competitive performance short-boards again.