The past year proved to be a watershed for Bethany Hamilton. While the Kauai native and shark-attack survivor has become a household name worldwide, she credits the past 12 months as being some of the most interesting of her life. Earlier this year, she gave birth to a baby boy, held her own amid a heavy session at Teahupoo, competed on The Amazing Race, and recently towed into Jaws. Below, Bethany reflects on a monumental year and describes what she has planned for the future.
2015 was a big year for you, and you recently became a mother. Obviously, that comes with a lot of new responsibilities. Do you feel that being a mom has changed your personality at all?
Yes and no. I think becoming a mom has encouraged my patience [Laughs]. I have to plan my day out a lot more now. It’s forced me to become more organized. But it really is the most wonderful thing ever. I’m a happy mom and my husband is loving being a dad.
How long were you out of the water leading up to and after having the baby?
I didn’t surf at all for the last month-and-a-half of my pregnancy. I was able to get in the ocean, but I just swam. After I had the baby, I waited about five weeks to surf.
Was that the longest you’ve ever been out of the water, including the time after your shark attack?
It was! After the attack, I was out of the water just under a month. The attack happened on Halloween and I was back surfing again before Thanksgiving. It’s pretty weird to think about that. But when you’re a kid, you’re a lot more resilient.
There was a scene in the movie, Soul Surfer, that I recall where the actress playing you is looking at a Barbie doll with one arm. The implication was that, because of the attack, you were questioning if you were going to have a normal life, get married, and so on. Fast forward to today, and you’ve done all of those things.
After losing my arm, I had a lot of fear in my life. I was living in the unknown. It was scary. I didn’t know who I was going to be, what I could do, where I could go. But everything really came together. And now, I have a great husband and family. Becoming a family has been the most amazing experience of my life. It’s been so wonderful. We’re looking forward to all of the fun adventures we have in the future. We have a pretty unique situation, but it’s a lot of fun, and I look forward to what’s to come.
If you could go back now and talk to yourself after the attack, what would you say? It seems that everything has really come together for you.
That would have been crazy to do. I would probably tell myself to keep my faith in God. That’s who’s carried me along when things get hard. There’s light in dark times. I’d tell myself to have some hope. Also, it’s really about perspective. Sometimes, I’ll read comments on stories and people will write, Poor thing…she lost an arm. I don’t look at it like that at all. I have all these great things going on, so I’m not going to let the fact that I lost an arm change the rest of my life.
Okay, let’s talk about surfing a bit. You’ve been really charging lately, both at Teahupoo and at Jaws. What brought that on?
Well, I’ve been jonesing to surf both of those waves for a while. It’s been such a fun period for me lately. That recent session at Jaws was so insane. Just cruising in the channel and watching it is a blast. But to be surfing it is a crazy experience. Sometimes I wonder why it took me so long. But now I feel like my surfing and everything is that much better and I can really handle myself. It feels right. If I get pounded, I’m going to be okay. I’m still waiting for a good licking, though.
Would you say you’ve developed a newfound love of big, heavy surf?
I’ve always liked to surf bigger waves, I just haven’t really promoted it and it hasn’t been publicized. Things get a lot more promoted now with social media. Plus, when you surf Jaws, there are 100 cameras on your every wave.
How about your plans for the upcoming year? Are you still working on your film Surfs Like A Girl with Aaron Lieber?
Yeah, the film is going really well. We have a full year ahead of us and I’m really pumped for it. A lot of my past few years have been traveling for non-surf stuff. But this year’s all surf, and we’re bringing the whole family.
Do you think you’ll ever return to competition?
I don’t think I’ll do contests full-time again. I’d love to continue doing specialty events and I would love to compete in the Triple Crown, if that ever returns for the women. Man, I would love to see that come back. There are a lot of guys who only compete in Hawaii and surf the local contests. It would be great if we could see that type of scenario unfold for the women. I really want to surf Fiji as well. I’ve been granted a wildcard into that event in the past, but I couldn’t do it because we were doing The Amazing Race or I was in labor. But hint, hint, WSL: I would love another opportunity to surf in that event [Laughs].