Bethany Hamilton

Surfer

Bethany Hamilton     Photo: Jeff Lipsky

"Then it happened," writes 14-year-old Bethany Hamilton in her new book, Soul Surfer. "A wave rolled through, I caught it, put my hand on the deck to push up, and I was standing. I guess I started getting the technique wired after that." Let us be the first to say that this is a massive understatement. Last January, ten weeks after losing her left arm in a grisly shark attack that made international headlines, Hamilton rode a six-foot wave on her six-foot-two-inch surfboard and placed fifth in her age group in a National Scholastic Surfing Association meet in Hawaii. In August she won the women's open division of an NSSA Hawaii conference contest, outsurfing the reigning champ, 12-year-old Carissa Moore. How is this possible? Hamilton credits her family (her parents, Cheri and Tom, and two brothers, Noah and Timmy, all surf), supporters in her hometown of Princeville, Kauai, her strong faith, and her unwavering mission to turn pro. In addition to physical therapy, her daily workouts include beach sprints, crunches, stretches, and balance work. She also surfs three times a day on Kauai's best breaks, fine-tuning her technique with help from surf-training legend Ben Aipa, 63, who has coached Kelly Slater and Sonny Garcia. Though she wears a prosthetic on land, she rides the waves without one: paddling with her right arm, kicking hard, planting her body in the middle of the board, standing up, and then dropping in. "For most of us, surfing with two arms is hard enough," says Sunshine Makarow, publisher of Surf Life for Women. "But Bethany's still out there surfing competitively, and she can rip!"

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