Thirteen years ago, Bethany Hamilton’s left arm was bitten off by a tiger shark while she was surfing on Kauai. Despite losing 60 percent of her blood, she survived, returned to surfing three weeks later, became the subject of a number of movies and books over the years, and appeared on a ton of TV shows like The Amazing Race. Meanwhile, she also continued to work as a pro surfer.
Getting over the emotional trauma of a shark attack and then returning to the water is a feat on its own, but physically speaking, the actual balancing and paddling work of surfing seems near-impossible with one arm. Getting onto a big wave requires paddling up to speed then quickly pushing yourself up onto your feet, which are each hard enough on their own with two arms.
But her handicap hasn’t stopped Hamilton from getting rad and competing in World Surf League competitions. This past weekend, she earned her highest WSL finish and took down the top-ranked surfer in the world, Tyler Wright, before bowing out in the semifinals. As you can see, she can still surf the hell out of a wave.
Famous as she is, Hamilton isn’t a WSL regular, and she only entered the event as a wild card, but she proved she belonged pretty quickly. Getting back in the ocean at all after a shark bit your whole arm off is impressive as hell, but beating the world’s top surfer is impressive is a pretty emphatic way to top things off.