Bethany Hamilton became a household name at 13 after a tiger shark took her left arm -- and she went back to surfing just one month later. In the 15 years since, she's not only become an icon in the surf world, competing at heavy-wave locations like Fiji and Oahu, but also in popular culture. She wrote a best-selling autobiography that was adapted for film and in the meantime, she launched her own foundation, Friends of Bethany.
Hamilton's family also got a little bigger along the way. In 2015, she and her husband, Adam Dirks, had their first child, Tobias, who accompanies them at contests and surf trips. They're currently expecting their second one -- and still, Hamilton has yet to slow down. In honor of her birthday February 8, she broke out her skateboard for some celebratory, concrete turns.
While the Kauai-born superwoman was adjusting to motherhood, she also treated WSL fans to some jaw-dropping surfing. In 2016, Hamilton competed as a wildcard at the Fiji Women's Pro, blowing minds (and fins) along the way. Incredibly, she made it all the way to the Semifinals, defeating World-Champion-to-be Tyler Wright in the process. The improbability of it all, and the impressiveness of Hamilton's feat, wasn't lost on her, either. "I've been dreaming of competing here in Fiji," she said afterward. "We all flew down eight or nine days ago, and it's been pumping since we got here.
But part of what makes her such a powerful public figure is that surfing is just one facet of her persona. "I know I'm in a unique position to encourage young girls to hopefully make great decisions as they're growing into women, and to chase their dreams," she said. "Even after losing my arm I'm still doing everything I'd hoped I could do, and even more. Hopefully, I'm a reminder that you can do it, if you set your mind to it."
As Hamilton approaches yet another phase of her remarkable journey, we wish her very happy birthday.