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Christian Shark Attack Survivor Bethany Hamilton Beats World's Best Surfers in Fiji Competition

( [email protected] ) Jun 01, 2016 01:43 PM EDT
Professional surfer and outspoken Christian Bethany Hamilton, who famously lost her left arm in a 2003 shark attack, recently placed third in the elite Fiji Women's Pro surfing competition.
Bethany Hamilton competes in the Fiji Women's Pro surfing competition. Instagram

Professional surfer and outspoken Christian Bethany Hamilton, who famously lost her left arm in a 2003 shark attack, recently placed third in the elite Fiji Women's Pro surfing competition.

The 26-year-old from Hawaii reached the event's semifinals, eliminating world No. 1 and series leader Tyler Wright and six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore along the way, according to Honolulu's StarAdvertiser.com.

"Coming here and competing in the Fiji Women's Pro is a dream come true and I am stoked with how I did," Hamilton said (via the Star Advertiser). "The women on the championship tour are surfing amazing right now and the level continues to get better and better. I have so much respect for all the girls, and it has been an amazing time here. I am so thankful for my husband's and family's support and all of my fans for cheering me on. It has been an incredible experience."

Bethany Hamilton
(Photo: Instagram )
Bethany Hamilton

According to the New York Times, scoring is based on a surfer's two best rides, and Hamilton had a 7.1 and a stellar 9.0 to win, 16.1-14.9. On her 9.0 ride, she started with a quick tube ride under the curl of the wave before four slashing turns.

The Christian surfer won in Round 3 and the quarterfinals as well, before being eliminated in the semifinals by Johanne Defay of France, who won the event. The Times notes that it was Hamilton's best result in six World Surf League events, topping a ninth-place finish in 2010.

After her surprising finish, she tweeted: "Beyond stoked to finish 3rd in the#FijiPro as the wildcard! LOVED competing & looking forward to more adventures!!!"

Hamilton was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark in Kauai, Hawaii, at age 13. Despite losing 60 percent of her blood and her left arm almost to the shoulder, she was back surfing within a month.

Her story was turned into a book, a documentary and, in 2011, a feature film, "Soul Surfer." Hamilton has also made numerous television appearances, including a third-place finish on "The Amazing Race" in 2014 with her husband, Adam Dirks.

In 2015, she gave birth to a son, Tobias: "It's been an amazing year full of beauty and challenge becoming a mom but also continuing my surfing career," she said, according to the Washington Post. "I've loved working hard and I am feeling strong and sharp."

Bethany Hamilton
(Photo: Instagram )
Bethany Hamilton with her son, Tobias.

Hamilton is quick to credit her Christian faith for her tremendous success despite overwhelming obstacles. During a 2015 event attended by The Gospel Herald, she revealed that she draws strength from her two favorite verses, Psalm 73:26, which says "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever," and Ephesians 2:8, which says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

"These verses bring it back to what God has done," she said. "It's not what we have done, but God accepts us just as we are. When we become Christians, he gives us this gift of faith which is such a blessing and can help us through the hardest of hard times."

Bethany Hamilton
(Photo: Instagram )
Bethany Hamilton appears after placing third in the Fiji Women's Pro surfing competition.

She also uses her platform to encourage young girls to stay true to themselves and have the confidence to believe that they can achieve their dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem.

"I know I am in a unique position to encourage young girls to make great decisions as they grow into women and to chase their dreams," Hamilton told WSL on Sunday."Even after losing my arm, I am still doing everything I've hoped I could do with my future and even more. I think I am a reminder for the young girls that they can do it if they set their mind to it."