A Shark, a Surfer and a Story of Survival


This is the real surfboard Bethany was riding when she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark. Photo by NoahHamiltonPhoto.com

From the time we are old enough to speak in sentences, everyone asks us the one pivotal question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Bethany Hamilton’s answer came quickly and definitively.  She wanted to be a professional surfer.  That was her dream.  So she set about doing what she could to make her dreams come true.  She trained.  She competed.  She won.  It looked like her dreams were becoming reality.

Then the nightmare began.  Out for an early morning surf, Bethany was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark.  The leviathan took her left arm and swam away, leaving Bethany bloodied and broken, but still on her board.  This is where the dream ended, right?  Wrong.  It took moments for her life to change, but in an instant she knew what she had to do.  Bethany was determined to not only live, but to thrive.

What about you?  What did you want to be when you grew up?  What dreams did you want to become reality?  You may not have had Bethany’s unique experience, but you have “sharks” circling to steal your dreams, too.  The sudden loss of a job, overwhelming loneliness, a struggling marriage, financial setbacks…all these have the potential to pull you under, drowning your dreams.  But don’t let them.  It won’t be easy, but your dreams are worth it.  Here are three things that Bethany did to realize her dreams.  You can do them, too.

Put the pain aside. Before you can do anything about your circumstances, you have to be able to move past the initial hurt.  Sometimes this is the most difficult step because it’s easy to let the pain wash over and immobilize you.  As long as you float in your pain, you have to deal with your circumstances alone. Putting the pain aside doesn’t mean that you don’t hurt; it just means that you’ll be able to focus on what comes next.

Get to the beach. Just focus on what’s straight ahead, reach one goal at a time.  Don’t get distracted by the things around you that would pull you under.  Point your eyes to the shore and make your way, one stroke at a time until you reach the sand.  You need to get to a place where you can be helped.

Get back up on your board and surf again. If your dream is to be a surfer, you have to get back in the water and up on a board.  If you dream of being a better spouse, you have to dive into your relationship and do what it takes to make that happen.  Be willing to do the work.  Be willing to take the risks.  You can expect to struggle, but be persistent.  Pursue your dreams.

Bethany Hamilton’s story has been made into a feature film, Soul Surfer, which opens in theaters on Friday, April 8, 2011.  Here’s a sneak peak.

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2 thoughts on “A Shark, a Surfer and a Story of Survival

  1. Bethany you have touched my heart with your bravery and how you over came the shark attack,you are a imperation to many of us who has suffered things in our life,I give you and and your family who supported you in no matter what you decided to do with your life,your family stood 100% behind you,and that was so touching but your bavery and your strong will touched me more then anything ,I would love to keep up dates on you because you are my hero in life.

  2. bethany your my hero you are so brave after getting in a shark attack you get back on the bord and surf and follow your dream i love you bethany your the bravest person in the world that I know!know won else is as brave as you i can’t belive you got back on the bord after the shark attack I would never be able to get back on that bord and you my best and greatest hero
    love michelle

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