Pro surfer Bethany Hamilton, best known for her inspirational shark-attack survival story featured in the 2011 film Soul Surfer, has made quite the splash recently.
Today she claimed her first event title in 10 years when she took the top spot at the 2014 Surf n Sea Pipeline Women's Pro at the Banzai Pipeline in Oahu, Hawaii. The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) 1-Star event took place March 11 to 21 in 3-to-5-foot surf.
"It was fun; it wasn't exactly Pipe but better than most spots around the world that I surf in heats," Hamilton said after her win. "I usually lose, so this was great. In my first heat, I got a little barrel and I wasn't even expecting it, but I always keep my eye out because you never know out here. I kind of tucked in and I made it out, and that was a pleasant surprise."
The Kuai native was in the mainstream media spotlight earlier this month with the release of the EPIX documentary The Current, which follows athletes with disabilities as they explore newfound freedom through water sports. Hamilton, who lost her left arm to a 14-foot tiger shark in 2003, has been the subject of many films and documentaries since the accident and now aims to show people that she's actually a good surfer—not just a surfer with a disability.
This year she's teamed up with filmmaker Aaron Lieber on a new project that will highlight her surfing ability. "I've known [Bethany's] brother for a few years and went on a trip with Bethany and Carissa Moore a few years ago," Lieber said. "Then last year I was on a trip with Lakey Peterson and Bethany filming for Lakey's movie, Zero to 100. I knew Bethany was good, but after spending 10 days with her, I was just blown away, and we started discussing the project."
Hamilton's Friday win at the Pipeline Women's Pro should help the project gain momentum, because, as she puts it, "A lot of people just don't know I can surf."
In this exclusive clip, Hamilton opens up for the first time about exactly how she's able to surf with only one arm and how she's had to change her surfing style since her infamous accident.