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Bethany Hamilton, a Shark-Attack Survivor, Reaches an Unlikely Crest


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The world’s most famous surfer might be Bethany Hamilton, less for her accomplishments on a board than for the inspiring story of her return to the sport after losing an arm in a shark attack. But when Hamilton made news on Tuesday it was for her surfing prowess, as she posted her best competitive result by advancing to the semifinals in an elite World Surf League competition in Fiji.

Hamilton was a top young amateur when she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark in Kauai, Hawaii, at age 13 in 2003. Her friend’s father used a T-shirt and a urethane surfboard leash to stop the bleeding, possibly saving her life. She lost 60 percent of her blood in the attack and lost her left arm almost to the shoulder. But she was back surfing within a month.

The tale led to a book, a documentary and, in 2011, a feature film, “Soul Surfer,” starring AnnaSophia Robb as Hamilton and Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt as her parents. Hamilton has also made numerous television appearances, including a third-place finish on “The Amazing Race” in 2014 with her husband, Adam Dirks.

Despite her fame, few expected Hamilton to reach the top level of the sport while surfing with just one arm. How would she be able to paddle fast enough to catch waves? Would her balance be permanently affected? Though she has won some lesser events, she is not a World Surf League regular.

But Hamilton was given a wild-card berth into the league’s fifth event of the year. She finished last in her first-round group but won a second-chance heat, upsetting Tyler Wright of Australia, the world’s No. 1 surfer, who had won three of the first four events.

Scoring is based on a surfer’s two best rides, and Hamilton had a 7.1 and a stellar 9.0 to win, 16.1-14.9. On her 9.0 ride, she started with a quick tube ride under the curl of the wave before four slashing turns.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/01/sports/bethany-hamilton-world-surf-league.html

 

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