Get back up on your surfboard

When I was my children’s age a movie came out that had me, and millions of others, terrified of going in the water for fear of being attacked by a shark. It was called Jaws.

Lori Welbourne, On a Brighter Note


When I was my children’s age a movie came out that had me, and millions of others, terrified of going in the water for fear of being attacked by a shark. It was called Jaws.



Now there’s another film hitting the big screen that could have had the same effect, but instead the opposite is happening. It’s inspiring people to go for their dreams no matter what and it’s called Soul Surfer.

The story of Bethany Hamilton, the surfing competitor whose arm was bitten off by a giant tiger shark, has been motivating people all over the world since it happened eight years ago. 13 years old at the time of the attack, Bethany lost 60% of her blood, and it was considered a miracle that she even survived. But it was what she did afterwards that truly astonished everyone: she got back up on her surfboard.

It’s stories like this, of fearless determination, that remind us what we’re capable of when we believe in ourselves and reject the limitations imposed on us. Most people would have expected Bethany to give up surfing after losing an arm, but she loved it too much. She not only surfed again, she competed.

“Sometimes we don’t know why bad things happen to us,” she once said in an interview. “I didn’t know at first either.” She knows now, and sharing her story of courage and faith has become her life’s work.

I asked my 10 year old son and seven year old daughter what they thought of the movie when we came out

and they both said the surfer was brave.

But my daughter couldn’t understand why Bethany’s arm wouldn’t grow back. “Well, that’s just stupid,” she said, when I told her the human body doesn’t work that way.

My son understood more than I thought he would. “She never gave up,” he said. “And now she has a great life because of that.”

“Yeah, she does,” Daisy agreed. “Good thing she didn’t let the shark steal her happiness.”

When I was younger I used to hear the words “When you fall off that horse, get right back on.” I didn’t have a horse and never fell off one, so that saying was lost on me for the longest time. But once I got it, the message stuck. I can see my kids using Bethany Hamilton’s story of getting back on her surfboard for the rest of their lives whenever they need the inspiration to persevere.

Role models are important – at any age. And stories like hers illuminate the human spirit and put into perspective what’s truly important in life. When asked if she would avoid the shark attack if she could go back in time, she responded with a no. “I’m still surfing, loving life and being able to reach people a lot more than I probably would have with two arms,” she said.

Thank goodness she didn’t let that shark steal her happiness… or her opportunity to help others.

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