- (Photo:C-SPAN video screen grab)
- (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, known as the "Soul Surfer," spoke during the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday about her recovery after she lost her arm in a shark attack and how her physical setback allowed her to realize her true purpose outside of surfing.
"I felt as though I had lost more than just my arm," said Hamilton. "I thought that my hopes and dreams to become a pro-surfer and adventure the world were stripped away, but the faith I had in Jesus Christ gave me the strength to comprehend and lean on Him for understanding, even as a young girl"
During her speech, Hamilton read two biblical passages and focused her message on overcoming adversities to an audience that included President Barack Obama, who later joked that his surfing skills were not as good as hers, and other distinguished attendees.
Following her accident, Hamilton recounted that God was calling her to something greater than the dreams she had for herself. Now, she serves as a role model and inspiration to young women around the world through motivational speaking engagements.
"Because of where Jesus brought me, I have no regrets of the adversities God has allowed me to go through. As you look at me, you could think, 'Wow, have pity on her, she lost her arm to a shark.' But I look it as something beautiful. God has taken something awful and turned it into something incredibly amazing," said Hamilton.
Despite her physical limitation, Hamilton says she puts her situation in perspective in comparison to children undergoing diseases like those who are a part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"I was recently in Hawaii and had 10 Make-A-Wish kids. I got to take them surfing and remind them that there is hope and remind them of the love Jesus Christ has for them," said Hamilton.
She added, "It's easy to look at the things of this world to solve our challenges and obstacles in life, but when we submit our lives to Christ, His grace, mercy, peace and love will bring true fulfillment to our lives."
At 13, Hamilton was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark off of Kauai's North Shore, deterring her from pursuing her dreams of becoming a surf star. A month after the attack, she returned to the ocean and a year later, she won her first national surfing title.
Hamilton's story was made into a feature film in 2011 called "Soul Surfer," starring actress AnnaSophia Robb, while her book, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board was published in 2004.
Last year, she married Adam Dirks, a youth pastor from Hawaii.
During the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama addressed the gathering of Christian participants and political leaders to discuss freedom of religion across the world while urging nations to protect their citizen's rights. He also acknowledged Kenneth Bae, a missionary and pastor Saeed Abedini, who are currently imprisoned in North Korea and Iran, respectively, for their Christian beliefs.