Bethany Hamilton – 2017 Waterman of the Year
by Mimi LaMontagne
Bethany Hamilton is known for many things – strength, determination, power and grit, kindness, generosity. Of course she’s talented, and her faith is unquestionable. But perhaps the one thing she’s most renowned for, is the one thing that matters least.
When Bethany was attacked by a shark while surfing in Kauai, it shook up every known and turned it into a volatile unknown. It changed her entire life. But one great misconception is that it changed her.
The events of 2003 didn’t change Bethany at all, they only amplified the qualities that she inherently possessed, and drove her to make the most of them.
The youngest of three siblings, Bethany was born in the small beachside town of Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii, to Thomas and Cherilyn Hamilton. As most young groms in Hawaii do, she picked up a surfboard around the same time she learned to walk.
But like most things that Bethany does, she didn’t just settle for the common standard – she strove for greatness. From a young age, she knew that she wanted to be a professional surfer, and nothing was going to stop her.
Long time family friend and coach Russell Lewis describes her surfing childhood as something that he’s never seen before. He said that in all the years he’d been coaching, Bethany was the most determined and headstrong young lady he’d ever come across. There was a distinct difference between her and, well, everyone else.
That was Bethany, and that still is Bethany today. Full of willpower, and a robust love for both surfing and the ocean.
This is exuded throughout everything she does, all the way from tearing down competition at Cloudbreak to simply taking her son Tobias to play at the beach every day.
Every professional surfer or waterman (or woman) has a deep respect for this vast expanse we call our playground, and our livelihoods. It’s a relationship built on the love of our sport and nature.
But Bethany’s relationship with the ocean runs deeper. It has given her so much, and taken away so much. It has helped develop her into the person that she is today, in a way that possibly no one else can understand. It has taught her to live her life fiercely.
To love fiercely, which is without a doubt something she does every day – with Tobias, her husband Adam, her friends, her family and her faith. To be fiercely determined, no matter what the adversities are that you face. To show strength and grace. To overcome.
Bethany isn’t just a professional surfer. She isn’t just a mom, a wife, a daughter and a sister. She isn’t just a public figure or “the nicest person you’ve ever met.”
She is a waterwoman, and in our opinion, there’s no one more worthy of that title.