Hawaiian Miracle

Bethany’s surfboard after shark attack

At 6:40 am on Halloween morning in 2003, Bethany Hamilton, best friend Alana Blanchard, Alana’s father and her brother all headed to Tunnels Beach, Kauai. Bethany described the morning as “Even though the waves were crummy, everything else was working: it was sunny, the water was warm, and my friends were here to hang with” (Hamilton, 15). All four of the surfers just rested in the calm water, waiting for a wave to come. Bethany had her left arm dangling off the side of her surfboard, her blue Rip Curl watch reflecting the sun off of it into the water. All of a sudden, a thirteen-foot tiger shark attacked her, amputating her left arm up to her shoulder and biting off the top half of the surfboard. In her book, Bethany describes how there was no pain, just lots of blood as the shark’s teeth “sawed through the board and my bones as if they were tissue paper” (Hamilton, 71) Bethany had one thought, “Please, God, help me. God let me get to the beach” (Hamilton,73) so Bethany started to swim toward the beach with determination. In the film, the shark attack has the usual Hollywood effects using intensely dramatic music along with underwater shots of “a trail of blood” (Goodwyn). The Blanchard rescue seems frantic and very emotional. In comparison, the book describes the Blanchard family as more composed. They reacted quickly by pushing Bethany’s board towards the reef, by talking to her to make sure she remained conscious, and by tying a surf shirt tourniquet around her severed limb to control the profuse bleeding. Bethany is rushed to the hospital. Both sources confirm the fact that a life-saving group of friends were present for the miraculous rescue which the Hamilton family considered divine intervention.

Soul Surfer: Shark Attack Scene

On the forty-five minute trip from the beach to the hospital, Bethany “lost approximately 60 percent of her blood” (Goodwyn) thus requiring immediate surgery. By what the family considers to be divine planning, Bethany’s father

One of Bethany’s Doctors

was in the operating room preparing for knee surgery so she was able to take his place. Her father was rolled out of the operating room and Bethany was rolled in. All surgical equipment was in place for Dr. Pierce and Dr. Rovinsky to operate on the traumatic amputation. Bethany and her family felt that God planned this event to save her life. While Bethany was in the operating room, friends and family gathered to pray.

Bethany after surgery

Once Bethany awoke from her surgery, she realized that her left arm was missing “But, her strength and courage don’t diminish” (Goodwyn) because ever since she was a young child, her parents instilled strength in her through obedience to authority, resilience during hardships, and faith in God. Those inherent lessons became Bethany’s life line.