Where do we find inspiration?

January 23, 2013 6:00 pm

‘Thinspiration’ is a word that has come into our lives over the past decade. This word has encouraged young girls to look to the super skinny celebrities dominating the media, encouraging them to engage in restricting fad diets and unhealthy body images. With an increasing amount of size zero celebrities and off the rails childhood stars, it’s no wonder why the younger generation struggle to find a respectable role model.

Bethany Hamilton

With the recent hype of the Olympics, our eyes have been opened to the real heroes and role models who inspired the nation to get fit and healthy, along with a lesson in perseverance and hard-work. Recently I have discovered the story of a girl from the USA which has moved and inspired me. For anyone who isn’t aware of the story labelled, ‘Soul Surfer’, it’s time to be enlightened and learn the real meaning of ‘perspective’.

Bethany Hamilton was born on the island of Kauai, Hawaii and began surfing from a young age. By the age of eight, Bethany was entering surf competitions, winning both short and longboard divisions. It was no surprise that before the age of twelve she was destined to be the next big thing in the surfing industry, with a passion and determination for the water that caused widespread excitement.

On October 31, 2003, when Bethany was thirteen years old and surfing off Kauai’s North Shore, a 14-foot tiger shark attacked her. The attack left Bethany with a brutally severed arm losing over 60% of her blood. Miraculously surviving the attack, Bethany’s inspiring spirit and determination caused her to overcome all obstacles that one-armed surfing might present; She was back in the water just one month after the attack.


The fear of not surfing overcame all others and spectacularly, in January 2004, Bethany returned to competing where she placed 5th in the Open Women’s division. Her undeniable effort to pursue a career in professional surfing never faltered, and just one year after the attack, she took 1st place in the Explorer Women’s division of the 2005 NSSA National Championships, winning her first National Title. Her story offers a real model to young girls as she says, “courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of–the heck with sugar and spice”

In August 2005, Bethany took a trip to Phuket in order to help the survivors of the Tsunami that caused horrific devastation to the land and inhabitants of Thailand. On this journey Bethany gained, and shared, her optimistic and insightful spirit, helping the children of the disaster to overcome their fear of the ocean as she taught them to surf. Bethany saw the devastation and loss inflicted on the communities of Phuket, which encouraged her new perspective on life. “Life is full of what-ifs. You can’t let it hold you back,” said Hamilton. Despite her traumas, she remains grateful: “I have been very blessed in my life … I have to look at the big picture; I have a family that loves me,” she said. “I could have died. I could have been really mangled. I could have been hurt so bad that I might not have been able to surf again. I have lots and lots of things to be thankful for.”.

Bethany Hamilton

Bethany has shared her story with many through the publication of her book, and the 2011 release of ‘Soul Surfer’, starring AnnaSophia Robb, which retells Bethany’s story in the honest and awe inspiring way that it deserves. Many of life’s obstacles appear incredibly miniscule compared to what Bethany went through before she was even fourteen years old. She is now twenty-two years old and a professional surfer, who gets to travel the world surfing the top competitions. She has no regrets on anything that has happened to her, saying she has “had the chance to embrace more people with one arm than she ever could of with two”, and asserts that normal is ‘overrated’ and isn’t the definition of beautiful.

“Life is a lot like surfing. When you get caught in the impact zone, you’ve got to just get back up. Because you never know what may be over the next wave.” Her perspective on life and how she dealt with her hardships is inspiring to all generations. Life, like the ocean, is full of waves and obstacles, and though we may not be able to see what’s beneath us, the main thing is that we got on the board.

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