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Ask Bethany, Updated Edition
FAQs : surfing, faith & friends
By Bethany Hamilton, Doris Rikkers
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2014 Bethany Hamilton
All rights reserved.
Q. It has been a long time since I have seen your picture. What do you look like now?
Q. How tall are you?
A. I have blond hair and hazel eyes and of Irish–Norwegian heritage. I'm taller now than I was when I was attacked by the shark. I was 5'7" when I was 13, but now I'm 5'11".
Q. How old are you?
A. I'm twenty-three years old now (or in my mid-twenties).
Q. When is your birthday?
A. I was born February 8, 1990.
Q. Where do you live?
A. I live on the north shore of the island of Kauai, the Garden Island, in the state of Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Q. Were you born in Hawaii or someplace else?
A. I was born in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, in the emergency room at Wilcox Memorial Hospital.
Q. Where do you go to school?
A. I have now graduated high school, but when I was in school, I stayed home to go to school. (That sounds funny, doesn't it?) Anyway, I went to Hanalei Elementary School in the town of Hanalei on Kauai. I started homeschooling after sixth grade so I'd have more time to surf. I did my studies through American School. They have students all over the world! I pretty much had to homeschool, especially after the attack because I traveled so much. I realize how blessed I am to have been educated. As I travel, I see many places where people lack a good education. So I encourage you to always work hard in school and be thankful!
Q. Are you a Christian?
A. Yes, I am. I believe that Jesus Christ has died on the cross for my sins and has given me new life through faith in him! I enjoy getting to know God by seeking him, reading his Word, and acknowledging his presence in my life. For more about my faith, see the chapter "About Faith."
Q. When did you become a Christian?
A. I've been a Christian for as long as I can remember. I was about five when I recognized Jesus as my Savior and committed to follow him, love him, and live my life for him!
Q. Where do you go to church?
A. I go to a nice, small church on the north shore of Kauai. I love the small feel and community there!
Q. What color is your hair?
A. I have medium length, straight blonde hair. It looks just like my mom's hair did when she was my age. I'm always trying to take good care of it because the sun and ocean are shredding the tips.
Q. I heard you have blonde hair. Is that your natural color? Do you use peroxide or anything on it?
A. My hair is thin, so it naturally bleaches out from the sun even more than most people's hair. I like everything real and natural, so I don't use artificial products and I try to avoid chemicals as much as possible.
On the Same Wave
Here's what the Bible tells us about outward appearance:
The Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height ... The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
—1 Samuel 16:7
Beauty is more about what's on the inside than what's on the outside.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment ... Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."
—1 Peter 3:3–4
Q. I heard you're really cute, so I checked out some of the pics on the Web. Sure enough, you are.
Life's not fair. How come you're cute and popular, and I'm not?
A. Oh, silly, that is a funny question! God makes us the way we are for a reason, and he never makes a mistake. You were designed with his perfect love! We just have to make the best of what we've got. And besides, it's what's inside us that really counts. Kindness and love are more important than looks. My mom has me look up words in the Strong's Concordance to find their deeper meaning. I found out that real beauty is more valuable if it's inside our hearts. Grace, pleasant, agreeable, precious, delight, honor, purity and godly were a few of the words that were a part of being beautiful. Sin is what really makes a person look ugly, so be beautiful with a clean heart!
Q. What's your middle name?
A. Meilani, which means "heavenly flower."
Q. Do you have a nickname, or does everybody call you Bethany?
Q. What's your favorite holiday?
A. I like Christmas. More so the deeper meaning of it. The beauty of God sending Jesus his Son to earth for us!
Q. Who's your favorite movie star?
A. I don't really have one, but I like to laugh, so any one who can make me laugh! I like Anna Sophia Robb and Cozi Zueshlsdorff.
Q. Do you have any pets? If yes, what are their names?
Q. What kind of pets do you have?
A. I have three dogs, all shar-pei's. Their names are Hanalei ("Hana"), Fu Min ("Fui") and Kombucha ("Buch"). They bring so much joy and laughter (and responsibility) to my life! I used to have a dog named Ginger. She was in our family for years, would do walking hand-stands, and is portrayed in my movie Soul Surfer. I love having dogs! I also used to have a horse named Koko. My mom sold her because she took too much time away from surfing, and she bucked too much.
Q. Do you take your pets with you when you travel?
Q. Who takes care of your dog when you're gone?
A. No. My parents or friends watch them.
Q. Do you have your driver's license?
A. Yes, I have my driver's license! I got it in the summer of 2006. I even did a women's car race in Morocco in 2013 called "Rallye Aicha Des Gazelles." It was amazing.
Q. I hear you've tried snowboarding. What do you think of it?
A. I really liked it. Snowboarding is a little bit like surfing waves because they both require good balance. Turning on a snowboard is the opposite of how you turn on a surfboard, though. When you turn on a snowboard, you use your front foot to pivot. In surfing, you use your back foot. Every time I go back to surfing waves after snowboarding, I have to change my thinking. I'm a bit mixed up, and it takes a wave or two to get comfortable surfing again.
Q. Do you do any other extreme sports other than surfing?
A. An extreme sport is usually life-threatening and very dangerous. I don't consider surfing an extreme sport unless you are going out in twenty-plus-foot waves. I tried bungee jumping in Thailand, which did not make my mom happy, but I loved it! And I've gone skydiving a few times, which is an amazing experience.
On the Same Wave
Here's what the Bible says about nothing being impossible for God:
Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.
—1 Corinthians 2:9
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
Q. What advice would you give somebody facing challenges?
A. No matter what kind of challenge you face—emotional, physical, or social—the advice is the same: Always ask God for help, guidance, and inspiration! He can open doors that you would never think or dream of! When you make Jesus the first priority in your everyday life, he can help you overcome obstacles and face challenges. Don't give up. Keep working hard.
Sometimes you need to change your focus to other things, something more doable. I played the ukulele in elementary school and then switched to guitar, and now I just play my iPod because I am more focused on my surfing. My mom wants me to learn the keyboard because I love music so much. But I am really too busy to do that. I hope some of you will take up where I left off with my music skills. That would make me smile! With God's help, you can do anything according to his will, so I encourage you to pray and trust in God. Seek out his great plan for your life, and he will never let you down! Nothing is impossible for God.
Q. What do you do for fun?
A. Go on adventures with my husband or friends or do something active (like play soccer or tennis, hike, bike, roller-blade, swim, stretch, and work out). Sometimes I like to just rest (necessary when you do lots of physical activity). And I love food—so I enjoy preparing and eating a healthy meal or snack. My fave is a smoothie! Hawaii is hot, so I enjoy spending a lot of time in the water. I like to snorkel and look for shells in the water with friends. In the summer, the waves aren't abundant, so my friends and I play tennis. We also help out with the junior high Bible study group, which gets pretty crazy but is lots of fun! I love cooking, and this last year I have been learning and trying new recipes from friends, family, and my own experimentation! I have been having great fun with my friends learning to cook healthy food. Then we bring it to Bible study and make everyone eat it! Yikes! I really enjoy reading a good book too!
Q. Do you ever feel that what happened has ruined your life? If I lost an arm, I think my life would be ruined.
A. I don't see my life as ruined. Everybody has to face some difficulties in life. I have met people who are missing both arms. That is an incredible challenge! I have a neighbor who is quadriplegic, and he runs his own business. A bitter heart and a negative outlook is more of a handicap than any physical setback.
Q. How would you describe your life before the attack and now?
A. Before the attack, I'd say my life was busy with school, surf contests, fun with friends, and lots of church youth group activities. Then there was the attack. Now things are kind of in the category of wild-and-crazy awesome. My life is full of opportunities to be a witness for Jesus, help others, and still keep my passion for surfing alive. I just keep praying and trusting that God will show me which things to choose so that I can tell others about his love and all he's done in my life. All to make God smile!
Q. You always have cute swimsuits on in your pictures. Where do you like to shop?
A. All of my bathing suits are made by my sponsor, Rip Curl. They have great suits and send me lots to choose from. I need suits that are functional out in the water, as a surfing wipeout can have a bad effect on a weak suit! Plus they have cute but modest suits.
Q. How long have you been surfing?
A. I started surfing on my own when I was five. So I've been surfing about eighteen years now.
Q. I'm ten and have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. Did you know what you wanted to do at my age?
A. Yes, I wanted to be a professional surfer. But most people don't know what they want to do when they're ten, so don't worry about it. While you're growing up, enjoy the things that you like and do them as well as you can. Try different things so you can find out what works for you and what you really like to do and excel at. I like the same things now that I liked when I was younger. And I love Jesus more now than ever, especially as I get older and get to know him more and more over years of answered prayers and guidance. It is so exciting to learn to trust in Jesus and know he is always there for you. Trust him to guide you with your future! Think about what you do that makes you happy. That might be a clue as to what you should do when you grow up. And ask God to show you what you're good at.
Q. Do you have any hobbies?
A. Cooking, art, and photographing flowers.
Q. What's your favorite color?
A. I have a few, really: blue (like the ocean), orange and pink (like a sunset), and green (like the mountains on Kauai). Every color is special, and my favorites can change from time to time.
Q. Do you really have saltwater in your veins? I read that somewhere.
A. I'd like to say yes, haha! But I have blood in my veins like everyone else. "Saltwater in your veins" is an expression that means, "I've grown up by and love being in, on, and near the ocean and the waves."
Q. What's your favorite food?
A. I love eating healthy food. Smoothies are one of my favorites. I practically live on them. Papaya and acai fruit smoothies with lots of added greens are the best! I also love ahi tuna salads and chicken lettuce wraps! I also love coconut water! Check my book Body and Soul!
Q. Do you like junk food?
A. I eat dark chocolate and sweets once in a while, but not much. I always try to eat healthy food, like fruits and veggies. It's important to have a healthy, balanced diet, especially since I'm an athlete and want to be strong to surf.
Q. Do you exercise every day?
A. I like to exercise every day. I keep varying what I do so I don't get bored. I really enjoy running. Running builds my lungs so I can hold my breath under water longer. I also do core-focused workouts, as they help with twisting and turning while riding my surfboard. On Kauai I train with a trainer who designs workout routines for me to keep my spine and body aligned and strengthened evenly, which is highly important for anyone who has a limb difference. When I travel, I bring my TRX and use the workout rooms. If it's rainy, I still surf—unless the conditions aren't safe. I try to surf every day even if the conditions are not good. Many contests don't have perfect waves, and you have to be ready for anything.
On the Same Wave
Here's what the Bible says about our bodies:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
—1 Corinthians 6:19–20
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
—1 Timothy 4:8
Q. Do people stare at you 'cause you only have one arm?
A. Most people recognize me unless I really cover up; but that is hard to do in Hawaii because it's hot. Little kids tend to look because they really don't know anything about me. But most people are gracious and polite.
Q. Would you rather have people stare and whisper about your missing arm or ask you straight out, "Where'd your arm go?"
A. I think most people recognize me from hearing my story on TV, so they don't need to ask. Sometimes a little kid will ask where my arm went. I don't mind, because I get to have some fun and make up a wild, funny story about how I lost the arm!
Q. Does it bother you having only one arm?
A. I have to make many adjustments in my everyday life. Some things are frustrating and I have to ask for help, like putting my hair up in a ponytail. More challenges will come in life, no doubt, but I try to focus on the fact that I am alive and that I still have one arm. Some people don't survive their shark attacks, so I don't feel sorry for myself.
Q. Are you thinking about getting a fake arm?
A. A fake arm is called a prosthetic. A company called Hanger Orthopedics made a prosthetic arm for me; it was an amazing process. I had to dip my right arm into amalgam — the stuff that is used to form fake teeth. Then they reversed the design to be like my left arm. The fingernails on it can hold nail polish, and I look pretty cool wearing it! It is too nice to wear in the water or at the beach, which is where I am every day, so I usually leave it home. After ten years, I've gotten so used to doing everything with one arm that I don't feel the need to wear a prosthetic.
Excerpted from Ask Bethany, Updated Edition by Bethany Hamilton, Doris Rikkers. Copyright © 2014 Bethany Hamilton. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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