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Sounding Off: Her story will inspire youth

April 07, 2011|By Andrea Roberson
  • Bethany Hamilton, left, taught AnnaSophia Robb to surf when Robb was cast to play Hamilton in the bio-drama "Soul Surfer."
Bethany Hamilton, left, taught AnnaSophia Robb to surf… (Mario Perez, Film…)

Never again will I accept the argument that the youth in our country, or the world for that matter, no longer have positive role models to look up to and admire. Time and time again we have seen individuals, especially professional athletes, exhibit unethical behavior, bad moral choices and indiscretions of such a magnitude that we are at a loss for words when trying to defend them to our children.

Well, this is not a story about that.

This story is about Bethany Hamilton. If your children are near, invite them to listen, for this is a tale of a bona fide hero who endured a tragedy of epic proportion unlike anything you will ever know.

Hamilton's life changed forever in a split second when she was 13.

I had the privilege of going to a recent signing in front of Jack's Surfboards in Huntington Beach for Hamilton's autobiographical movie, "Soul Surfer," which opens in theaters Friday.

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I knew her story well and had followed her progress and success for eight years. In person, I was not expecting to see such an angel, so incredibly sophisticated and grown up. She exuded grace and courage. More than 600 girls and boys lined up to meet the statuesque blond surfer who stands at 5 feet, 11 inches. They arrived to meet their hero hours before her scheduled arrival time of 1 p.m.

At 8 a.m. Oct. 31, 2003, at Tunnels, a renowned surfing spot on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, Hamilton and her best friend Alana Blanchard, both 13 then, paddled out together. Surfing was something they had shared since early childhood. They were super stoked to be surfing on a pristine sunny, Hawaiian day.

After paddling out, Hamilton looked into the distance for a nice set when, with no warning, a tiger shark came from underneath her, engulfing her surfboard in its insanely powerful jaws, along with 90% of her left arm. To this day, she doesn't recollect the pain, just tremendous pressure.

The hospital in Kauai was at least an hour away, and she was losing blood so rapidly. It's a miracle she didn't bleed to death.

That was the first of many miracles she credits to her deep religious faith.

Coincidentally, her dad was at the hospital about to have knee surgery, when he was abruptly wheeled out of the operating room. He was told that a young female surfer had been gravely injured. He knew it had to be his daughter or her friend.

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