2015 - Shark Attack

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Shark Attack


Bethany Hamilton first tried to surf at
age 5. She could catch a wave and stand
up on the board without help by age 7,
 and entered — and won — her first compe-
tition the following year. Soon the native
Hawaiian had her own sponsor and started
home-schooling, which was better for her
training schedule. At the early age of 13,
her dream of becoming a professional
surfer seemed possible. 

On Halloween morning in 2003 the unthinkable happened. The day started like any other.
At 5 a.m. Bethany rolled out of bed to hit the beach. The wave report for that morning
was not very promising, but Bethany wanted to go anyway. Her mom dropped her off at
one of her usual spots. She joined a group of friends and they all paddled out to wait for a
few good waves. 

While Bethany was resting on her board, a tiger shark came out of nowhere and bit off her
left arm. She said she had not seen the shark approaching her. Otherwise she would have
had nightmares or never gone back in the water. She also believed that not seeing the
shark coming helped her remain calm immediately after the bite — a reaction that probably
saved her life.

The next days were extremely hard because she had to undergo several operations. As
time passed she began to feel better but then she was concerned about her future: "Will I
have to forget about surfing forever? What am I going to do?" She hated other people
pitying her or thinking of her as a person whose life had been ruined. So within a week
she made two promises to herself. She would never walk around moaning1 and she would
get back on her surfboard. 
Just 26 days after the accident she was back in the water. "When I first returned to surf-
ing, I was very afraid of sharks," says Bethany. "So to fight that fear I would just get in
the water and focus on catching the waves." 
30Surfing with only one arm was a challenge for her. "I had really frustrating days," she
says. "Some days I would go into the water and come out of the water crying, but I just
kept at it." The following year, she took part in national competitions, and within five
years after the attack she was one of the top professional surfers worldwide again.

While the accident was not something she would have wished for, she has accepted it as
part of her life — and discovered many unexpected benefits2. "One of the most beautiful
things that came from the accident is how it has allowed me to see that I can overcome
difficult things," says Bethany.

She also finds joy in being an example for other young amputees she works with. "There
aren´t that many great role models for young girls," says Bethany, the founder of the or-
ganization "Friends of Bethany", a charity that donates money to child amputees around
the world.
Bethany continues to surf daily and has also started giving public speeches, encouraging
people to set goals and go for them. "People can do whatever they want if they just set
their heart to it and never give up."
                                                                                                                 (542 words)
Adapted from: Laine Bergeson: No Fear: bethany Hamilton on Finding Your Courage. In: Experience L!fe, May 2013
1 to moan - jammern
2 benefits - Vorzüge