We nearly missed our chance to interview professional surfer, actress and author Bethany Hamilton because she was busy waiting on a wave in Bali. Specifically, she and 23 other top surfers competing in the annual Rip Curl Cup were eagerly awaiting the legendary Padang Padang swell—also known as “the Balinese Pipeline.” The fact that she was the first female ever to participate in the event in 2012—and once again this year—is a reminder that she’s one of the most extraordinary competitors in the world.
She’s also one of the most famous surfers, since surviving a horrific attack by a 14-foot tiger shark on Kauai’s North Shore in 2003 that severed her left arm. What she’s managed to accomplish in the 11 years since the incident is an amazing inspiration to anyone who has struggled with adversity.
After telling us about her “epic barrel riding in Bali,” the bubbly 24-year-old assured us she doesn’t view her neardeath incident as a setback, but as an opportunity that has enabled her to share her motivational message, love for surfing and charitable efforts with a worldwide audience. Determined to pursue her passion for tackling treacherous waves, she taught herself to surf again just one month after the attack and turned pro in 2007. Regularly competing across the globe, the energetic Hamilton also found time to pen her autobiography Soul Surfer that was released as a major film in 2011 as well as to marry youth minister Adam Dirks in 2013.
This year, Hamilton has been busier than ever with a first-place finish at the Surf N’ Sea Pipeline Women’s Pro in March, a newly released wellness book for girls titled Body and Soul, (Harper Collins) her upcoming movie Dolphin Tale 2 and an appearance with her husband on The Amazing Race show premiering on CBS September 26. Since she’s scheduled to chase after more waves soon in Tahiti, Fiji, and whatever swells beckon near her home in Hawaii, we seized the chance to ask her a few questions about her numerous projects and healthy lifestyle.
Extraordinary Health™ Magazine: We love the focus of your new Body and Soul book you’ve described as a wellness guide for girls. Why did you write it?
Bethany Hamilton: I want to help young girls develop a healthy lifestyle, understand their changing bodies, gain confidence and establish a pattern of healthy living. Our culture is unique because we’re sending messages to girls that they have to look a certain way to be beautiful. This has caused millions of girls to suffer from eating disorders, poor body image and low self-esteem. In my book, I encourage girls to eat healthy, organic foods and find exercises and activities they love to do. For many of them, it comes down to the realization that they are making poor decisions and hurting themselves.
Extraordinary Health Magazine: When did you first realize a healthy lifestyle was important?
Bethany Hamilton: I grew up eating a typical American diet full of frozen foods and fast foods. When I was 16, I started taking note of my health and realized all these processed foods were hurting my body. As an athlete, I wanted to be fit, eat right, have lots of energy and be healthier. I worked with health practitioners to learn more about my body and got rid of all the junk foods.
Extraordinary Health Magazine: There are lots of healthy recipes in Body and Soul and on your website. What are some of your favorite healthy foods?
Bethany Hamilton: I like to buy local, organic food and produce. Adam and I are not vegetarians, but we don’t eat lots of meat. We like to make our own creations in the kitchen. We also love healthy veggie smoothies and always have one before we go surfing. Or we’ll make a healthier version of pasta with zucchini noodles and veggie omelets. Our new favorite is mung beans. We also use coconut oil a lot.
Extraordinary Health Magazine: Why should we see your new movie Dolphin Tale 2 this fall?
Bethany Hamilton: It’s a great family film. So adorable and cute! I had to play myself, so I was very comfortable being in the water and loved swimming with the dolphins. The movie is really about how a community comes together to help each other overcome difficult circumstances, and it’s very inspirational.
Extraordinary Health Magazine: What was it like for you and Adam on The Amazing Race?
Bethany Hamilton: When we’re at home, we like to go on hikes, play tennis, go for a run or walk our three dogs. But we also like adventures, which is why The Amazing Race was incredible and very challenging.
Extraordinary Health Magazine: What’s next for you?
Bethany Hamilton: I’m working on a high-performance piece with filmmaker Aaron Lieber. I’m also busy working with my foundation, Friends of Bethany, that supports shark attack survivors and amputees. I host retreats, and we encourage young women who have lost a limb, pampering them and teaching them some practical health tips that are specifically for spinal alignment for amputees. We’ve also had Chef Drew Deckman cook for everyone and educate us on farm-to-table and sustainable eating. We have discussion times to talk about real life problems, but we stress there is a purpose for every struggle and that it can be turned into something good. The best part about sharing my story with others is letting them know they are not flawed, but beautiful and able to do incredible things! This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.