Bethany Hamilton, whose autobiography, “Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board,” inspired the 2011 film “Soul Surfer,” speaks Friday, April 10, at 5:45 p.m. in Westmont’s Murchison Gym. Westmont hosts Night of Champions, sponsored by the Santa Barbara Fellowship of Christian Athletes (SBFCA), which includes special guest Britt Merrick. Tickets to the event are $20 for adults, $10 for students, and can be purchased at santabarbarafca.org/noc.
Hamilton, a native of Kauai, Hawaii, began surfing and growing in her Christian faith at a young age. At age 8, she entered her first surf competition, where she won both the short-and long-board divisions and realized she had an immense love for surfing and a competitive spirit.
On Oct. 31, 2003, Hamilton was 13 and surfing off Kauai’s North Shore when a 14-foot tiger shark attacked her and completely severed her left arm. She lost more than 60 percent of her blood and underwent several surgeries. Lifeguards and doctors attributed her positive attitude and recovery to her strong water sense and her firm faith.
One month after the attack, Hamilton got back into the water to pursue her goal of becoming a professional surfer. She returned to competition in January 2004 and won the Explorer Women’s division of the 2005 NSSA National Championships 19 months after the attack.
Hamilton is also a motivational speaker, lifestyle advocate and writer. She started a charity foundation, Friends of Bethany, which supports shark-attack survivors and traumatic amputees and serves to inspire others through her story.
She advocates healthy living, specifically emphasizing the importance of balancing both physical and spiritual health.
In 2013, she married Adam Dirks, a Christian youth minister, and the couple expects their first child in June.
“Bethany has navigated extreme hardship to continue her passion for surfing and offers a perfect and relatable example of a pillar of perseverance,” says Carey Osimo, sophomore Westmont Activities Council member and avid surfer. “We hope that bringing her to campus will inspire us to live faithfully throughout life’s unexpected challenges.”