Christian athlete Bethany Hamilton considers herself blessed in many aspects of her life. Despite her encounter with a shark at the age of 13, which cost her her left arm, she was still able to continue the sport she is most passionate about — surfing.
Her story imparted such inspiring lesson that the movie "Soul Surfer" was made based on her life. She has gone all over the world, talking to different people and sharing her tale. She and her husband Adam Dirks even got to participate in "The Amazing Race," and they finished third in the contest.
As wonderful as all these achievements were, Hamilton tells The Guardian that it's difficult to shake off the stigma of being a shark attack victim. When people watch her, most of them apparently concentrate on her disability rather than her actual surfing prowess, she says.
"It's almost like my surfing has been overshadowed by being a shark attack survivor and being known as Soul Surfer," she says.
It's important for Hamilton to showcase her surfing skills because she hopes to inspire younger athletes to do the same. "It's a different sort of inspiration," she says. "Instead of 'Whoa, she surfs with one arm!' It's 'Whoa, she rips, I wanna be like her!'"
This is the exact same mindset Hamilton applies to her sport. "I don't look at it like, 'Wow, I did a really good job with one arm.' It's just, 'Wow, I did a good job on that wave,'" she explains.
Even after giving birth to her son Tobias last year, Hamilton says she did not give up surfing. If anything, she became an even more dedicated surfer because she has to work harder to perform better.
"Now I only have windows of time to train and surf," Hamilton shares. "I want to make the most of it, so I feel like I'm wiser with my time now."
Hamilton was nominated for the 2016 ESPY Best Female Athlete With a Disability award, but she backed out of the competition because winning it would have been like "rewinding back to square one."