Bethany Hamilton, best known as “The Soul Surfer” came to Calgary to speak on October 6, 2016, after being asked by a child from Calgary Christian School. The Winsport arena was full of fans ready to be inspired. What we learned is that inspiration is everywhere. In fact, Bethany’s personal sources of inspiration came from those who have touched her heart through their own stories of beating the odds; from another surfer who has learned to pursue even though he is blind, to others who are missing a leg, to many, others along her journey.
After losing her arm to a shark attack while surfing at the age of 13, Bethany, now a 26-year-old wife and mother, is more than ever the example of passion and perseverance. She also maintains that it was through her strong faith in God that assisted her in turning what was nearly “the end” into “just the beginning.”
Bethany continues to reign as one of the top women surfers and spends much of her time off the board either sharing her story or inspiring other girls to become their own Pinnacle of Beauty, like the famous statue found with no arms. Through her organization, Friends of Bethany, she encourages young girls to embrace their beautiful and natural selves, whatever that may be, knowing first hand how “the smallest changes can make the biggest difference.”
Bethany told the group of 2900 fans that even before her shark attack she would pray to God that He would let her be more than “just a surfer.” Sometimes we are not always sure exactly what we are asking for, as the attack was a mere two weeks later. Facing unexpected challenges is part of the progression; similar to each time she gets on her board and goes out to hit the waves.
In our city, we too have similar heroes with passion. A few years ago I had the honour to volunteer with Canadian Association For Disabled Skiing (CADS), right here in Calgary. Although each trained volunteer has their own reasons for helping out, what keeps them coming back, year after year, are the tears in their own eyes as they watch the tears of joy streaming down the faces of those they are assisting, and the exhilarating screams from the children who get to experience what seems like an impossible dream; the thrill of safely sliding down a ski hill despite their unique challenge or special need. The organization helps children who cannot walk be pulled up the hill in a sledge by a snow mobile and tethered down by an experienced boarder or skier. There are people who cannot see given safe direction in different ways depending on their ability, and those with a missing limb on sit-skis that are made especially for them.
The movie Soul Surfer, based on Bethany’s experience as a girl who recovered her passion, turned Bethany into an overnight celebrity; which, according to her, was an even bigger adjustment for the young girl than learning to surf again with only one arm. But she rose above in more than ways than one. As we wait for her up and coming films and her lifetime of future inspirations I hope you too are inspired today to live your passion and become a hero no matter what challenges you are faced with.