Bethany Hamilton: Lost and Found

Ann Byle

devozine Shark bite TS 103981403Bethany Hamilton was surfing on Halloween morning, 2003, when a fourteen-foot tiger shark bit off her left arm. Her best friend’s father helped her paddle to shore, and she was rushed to the hospital. The loss of her arm was devastating, and many thought she had lost her future as a surfer.


But Bethany never gave up. Eager to be home and to begin her life again, she stayed in the hospital for only a week. Never doubting that God would use the shark attack for his glory, Bethany and her family found peace in knowing that God had plans for her, to give her “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).


Finding Her Way Back

devozine Bethany Hamilton IMG_8582.CR2
Bethany may have lost an arm, but she knew she was whole in Jesus. Rather than dwelling on what she had lost, she focused on all she had found—joy, love, courage, and a plan for her life. She found joy in God, who had protected her despite what could have been a fatal shark attack. She found joy in her reformed body and her life. Only months after the attack, she found the courage to get back on the surfboard, to face reporters, and to tell the world that God hadn’t made a mistake. She found love from family and friends, who prayed for her and encouraged her, and from strangers, who sent her notes and organized fundraisers to help with hospital costs. She found a renewed understanding of God’s love for her and of her love for God. Bethany also found that God has a big plan for her life. “Looking back on the shark attack, I realize that God was watching out for me and keeping me calm. He kept me alive that day because he had plans for me.”


Telling Her Story

Bethany is now 17 and lives with her family on Kauai, Hawaii. Since the attack she has been on Today, 20/20, and Inside Edition. She has visited the Crystal Cathedral and has talked with evangelist Billy Graham. On every show, she talks about Jesus. “Jesus has given me lots of places to talk about him, so I know God is working through all this,” she says. “Jesus means everything to me. I never want to hide God.”

devozine Bethany (left) with Anna Robb IMG_8582.CR2

Bethany’s life has been crammed with excitement in the three-and-a-half years since the attack. She’s been featured on billboards and posters for The Foundation for a Better Life. Her poster says, “Me, quit? Never!” She’s gone to Thailand with World Vision to encourage children after the tsunami. She’s had two books published—Soul Surfer and Devotions for the Soul Surfer—as well as a line of Soul Surfer books that includes novels, a Bible, a devotional, and a question/answer about her life and faith. She received the “Comeback of the Year” award at the 2004 ESPY Awards. Bethany has also continued to compete and won the 2005 NSSA National Surfing Competition just nineteen months after losing her arm. She turned pro on July 1, 2007, and has plans to compete in England, Australia, South Africa, and Brazil. A documentary, Heart of a Soul Surfer, tells Bethany’s story; and a full-length feature film is scheduled to be in theaters this fall.

Despite all the TV appearances, books, surfing trophies, and travel, Bethany is a normal teenager. She’s doing homework, hanging out with friends, going to church, thinking about college, and following God: “If I hadn’t lost one arm I wouldn’t be sharing God’s love and message the way I can now. God put me on this earth to serve him, and I know that having one arm is the way he uses me. I’m so thankful that I can still surf and do everything I love, including telling others about Jesus.”



When you have been devastated by pain, injury, or loss, who or what has given you joy, love, courage, and hope for the future?

PRAY: God, make us whole again so that we may serve you and spread your love. Amen.


Learn more about Bethany, her books, and her recently-released movie Soul Surfer at


Ann Byle is a freelance writer and coauthor with Bethany Hamilton of Devotions for the Soul Surfer.

—from devozine (September/October 2007). Copyright © 2007 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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