“Soul Surfer” Visits Benjamin

Professional surfer and shark-attack survivor Bethany Hamilton shares her inspirational story with students.


Rissy Dalton

Bethany Hamilton speaks to the fifth graders and middle school students in the BPAC on Wednesday.

Widely known as the “Soul Surfer,” professional surfer Bethany Hamilton visited Benjamin’s Upper School and Lower/Middle School campuses on Wednesday, April 15. In 2003, at the age of 13, she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark off of Hawaii that caused her to lose her left arm. However, she has not let that get in the way of her achieving her lifelong goal of becoming a professional surfer. Now she is a worldwide celebrity, a role model for children everywhere, and an expectant mother. During her visit to the Middle School campus, Board of Trustees member and TBS parent Brian Waxman ’86 emceed the event as part of the School’s  Leadership Speaker Series and engaged in a “fireside” chat with Bethany in front of the students.

During their talk, Mr. Waxman asked Bethany about her inspirations, struggles, and triumphs after she lost her limb. Bethany made many lasting impressions and after the chat, Hamilton answered questions from the students to get to know her more personally. The questions ranged from what her favorite surf spot was (Tahiti) to how her friends have helped her through this journey. To close the event, Mr. Waxman addressed the elephant in the room. He asked, if she had a choice, would she rather have her arm back or not have her arm but have the fame that she has today. In response, Bethany said that she thinks the shark attack was her fate and that it happened to her for a reason, so she would not change her life if she had a choice.

Having Bethany Hamilton speak to the School personified a well-known success story and built ambition in every student to persevere and never give up. According to Head of Middle School Charles Hagy, Hamilton’s talk “was the personification of grit and a wonderful opportunity for our students.”