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Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board

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They say Bethany Hamilton has saltwater in her veins. How else could one explain the passion that drives her to surf? How else could one explain that nothing—not even the loss of her arm—could come between her and the waves? That Halloween morning in Kauai, Hawaii, Bethany responded to the shark’s stealth attack with the calm of a girl with God on her side. Pushing pain and panic aside, she began to paddle with one arm, focusing on a single thought: “Get to the beach....” And when the first thing Bethany wanted to know after surgery was “When can I surf again?” it became clear that her spirit and determination were part of a greater story—a tale of courage and faith that this soft-spoken girl would come to share with the world.

Soul Surfer is a moving account of Bethany’s life as a young surfer, her recovery after the attack, the adjustments she’s made to her unique surfing style, her unprecedented bid for a top showing in the World Surfing Championships, and, most fundamentally, her belief in God. It is a story of girl power and spiritual grit that shows the body is no more essential to surfing—perhaps even less so—than the soul.

222 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2004

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Bethany Hamilton

29 books329 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,809 reviews
Profile Image for Suzzie.
916 reviews162 followers
August 24, 2018
Inspiring and very interesting. I could not imagine getting out there so soon after losing an arm to a shark attack. It’s amazing the strength and courage this girl has. I seen the movie to this book a couple years ago and liked it but I am glad I got to finally reading her own words on the events. Really amazing story.

My quick and simple overall: amazingly inspiring and the overcoming of adversity was just tremendous for Bethany Hamilton.
Profile Image for Maya.
3 reviews2 followers
December 11, 2012
Imagine you doing your favorite thing in the world, whatever it may be: a sport, an art form, or a subject in school. Now imagine that one outlet of creativity and expression being stripped away from you, with nothing you could do to help it. This should have been the story of committed surfer, Bethany Hamilton. But according to her, she wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for surfing. “I’ve just fallen in love with the art of riding waves,” Bethany states in this amazing and inspiring story of a young girl with a path towards a big dream, who has a smooth ride until that one day, when there was suddenly a huge obstacle in her way.
It was an ordinary day. Bethany woke up, did her studies and then got ready for the day; polished her precious surfboard, ate breakfast and checked the local surfing forecast. Perfect day to surf. She went out to the waves with her brother, Timmy, her best friend Alana Blanchard and her dad. They were paddling, waiting for the perfect wave to hit, dangling their arms casually into the water. Little did they know what would be coming next. The shark came literally out of nowhere, snapped off Bethany’s arm and was never seen again. She didn’t scream, she just lied there, in shock. After that, her life was changed forever, but that would never have stopped her from going towards her goal: pro surfer.
After the descriptive and story-like introduction, the book got kind of weird. Instead of telling about her story, it told about different aspects of her life: her faith, her parents history, the movie that was made about her. In short, although this book contained a very interesting story, it was not in my opinion a “good book”. I personally would not recommend it to anyone looking for an intriguing book. Instead of how this book was laid out, I personally would have told it like a story starting from the beginning, and going until my first victorious surf competition after the attack. Instead, I feel that it was a disorganized jumble of information that I couldn’t put together. Although I enjoyed learning about Bethany Hamilton’s life, I did not enjoy the choppy delivery of the story.
Profile Image for 76Tinkerbell34.
11 reviews
October 10, 2008
Soul Surfer is a book about a girl named Bethany and her surfing life. When Bathany was 5, she started surfing. Bethany's best friend was Alanna. One day at the beach, Bethany and Alanna went to surf. There was no waves, they were just sitting back and enjoying the breeze. All of a sudden, Bethany saw a gray flash, felt a tug on her arm, and then slowly saw the water turn red.....

After Bethany was released from the hospiltal, she started therapy on her arm, so that it would get stronger. When her stiches were removed, she wanted to try to surf again with only one arm. On her first couple of trys, she didnt manage to get up, but after that she finally was able to surf.

I think that Bethany was trying to tell people that you should never give up. Just because you think you can't do something, you need to try and keep on until you accomplish it.
Profile Image for Carsten Thomsen.
157 reviews12 followers
October 15, 2011
I watched the movie Soul Surfer and liked it - and was intrigued by this true story of Bethany Hamilton who lost an arm in a shark attack, yet was able to go back and compete as a professional surfer. Wanted to know more about her story - also to find out more about her struggles to come back competing and her spiritual journey.

But the biography is focused too much on all the publicity her "story" has created in the media and her view on that.....and very little we get to know about her struggle to get back on the board and her inner struggles with losing an arm. OK, we each have our own way of coping with things, and apparently it all came quite easy for her (or is there something left out?)

This book is filled with christian cliches about faith and God which gets kind of boring and almost unbelivable - don't get me wrong - I share her faith in God - but there's just too many platitudes and easy answers in a book about disability and rehabilitation...Ok, it's the voice of a teenager, so maybe I just expect to much.

Also it ends with a horrible diary about the making of the movie...I just skimmed it....

But go see the movie. It's a good story!
Profile Image for Jaimal.
Author 22 books189 followers
Want to read
November 13, 2009
I haven't read Soul Surfer yet, but I had the privilege of surfing with Bethany Hamilton in Bali recently and was so inspired by her commitment. For those who don't know the story, Bethany lost an arm in a shark attack some years back while surfing. Rather than stopping, she relearned to surf with the handicap and hasn't slowed down at all. I'm sure the re-learning process was grueling, but seeing her now, it doesn't seem like losing her arm has hindered her abilities at all. She was the best female surfer I've ever seen. We were at Padang Padang, a very critical hollow wave, and it was cranking: solid 15 foot faces. Bethany was having to take off deeper than everyone else, but she made every wave and got barreled really deep every time. One time a a guy dropped in on her and her camera man started flipping out, screaming, "She's got one fucking arm! Get out the water!" Bethany just laughed and told her cameraman to calm down. She was very humble and cool. I'm sure her book is too.
Profile Image for Melanie.
2,027 reviews559 followers
August 8, 2018
Soul Surfer was an interesting read. It was nice to read about the tragic shark attack from Bethany's point of view. I really felt for her and can't believe how courageous she was. I couldn't believe how long of a drive it was from the beach to the hospital.

All in all, an inspiring story!
1 review
May 2, 2011
Soul Surfer is a very inspiring book. It talks about a girl named Bethany Hamilton she was on a surf board one summer morning when she got a big suprise. And she got bit by a shark. She lost her left arm but she kept pushing her self forward and taught herslef to keep trying. Soon she was ok and went back to surfing before this all happened, she was in a competition and she kept trying and got second place. She was so glad she never gave up or she would never have been able to prove to herself and others that she could surf again.She was so proud of herself. She never thought she would inspire so many people. She would never be able to do all this if it was not for her family being there and loving her.
Profile Image for Joy D.
2,067 reviews239 followers
May 13, 2020
I first heard of Bethany Hamilton in 2013 when she was filming Dolphin Tale 2 in Florida at the Clearwater Aquarium, working with Winter, the dolphin that learned to swim using a prosthetic tail. In 2003, at age thirteen, Bethany lost her left arm in a shark attack. In this book, published in 2004, she tells the story of the attack, the aftermath, her Christian faith, and how she returned to professional surfing. I read the updated version that includes her thoughts on the movie, also entitled Soul Surfer, which was released in 2011. This book is written in plain language in a colloquial young adult style. It serves as an inspirational example of a young person overcoming life-altering adversity.
Profile Image for Megan.
755 reviews25 followers
January 2, 2017
I'm so mad that my English teacher made me read this. Why not something a little more challenging? Not only is this book written by a fourteen year old, the text is big, the sentences are choppy, and the information is kind of pointless.

I give Bethany Hamilton credit for writing this when she was only fourteen, which must have been a lot of time and work. I also really admire how true she is to herself and her faith. I don't have a problem with her at all (for the most part), but the book just wasn't good and I can't think of anything that really amazed me.

The book starts out how I thought it would: with a flashback to the day of the shark attack. Even this scene wasn't written horribly exciting, probably because Bethany only remembers seeing a blur then...well. Then it goes on little tangents about her parents and how they met, her brothers, a chapter about her Christianity, and they all just felt so randomly placed and the opposite of flowy.

The main reason I'm giving this book one star is because they went out and killed the shark that bit off Bethany's arm. I don't think these people realize that sharks see surfboards and think they're seals or some other animal that they eat. The shark didn't come back and eat Bethany even though she was bleeding all over the place. They shouldn't have been so vengeful and went after this shark and killed it. It honestly disgusts me.

There were also instances when she just annoyed me so bad with the things she said/did:

You should have seen [the nurse's] face when she reached over and felt that cold rubber foot. I thought she would scream. Take that! This is what you get for waking me up all night!

She has to wake you up? It's her job? Let's not scare nurses when they are already under enough stress. I don't care how young you are.

I had never been in a TV studio before. They all have a "green room," which cracks me up because nine out of ten times it's not really green (so why do they call it that, would someone tell me?).


I saw a guy with a nice camera on the beach, and I was afraid he might be paparazzo, so I walked up to him and asked him to please not take any picture of me surfing.

He was probably just there to take some nice pictures of the beach. Get over yourself.

Yeah, I'll just end it here and say that I wish I would have gotten to read something with a little more substance. Maybe something that didn't irritate me.
Profile Image for Charlie.
92 reviews7 followers
November 20, 2012
This book is very inspiring. Though, I didn't finish it. Firstly, because it was due back to the library, but it just seemed to go on and on. A little boring at the end. Basically, it could've been shorter. I've watched the movie, which is brilliant. The actor who acts as Bethany Hamilton, Anna Sophia Robb, is very talented. She acts in a few other movies I like. Though the book might be a bit boring towards the end, I encourage you to watch the movie - it's great!!
12 reviews
January 10, 2015
I have heard a bit about Bethany Hamiltons story with the shark attack, and I have watched the movie, so I decided I should read her actual book, an autobiography kind of thing. I enjoyed the way that even though she was not an experienced author at the age of 14, she had the advantage of actually knowing what she was feeling, rather than telling the writer and the author putting it in their own words. I am extremely moved by her faith, and I think that Soul Surfer is a must read for all.
2 reviews1 follower
May 11, 2012
Soul Surfer
By: Bethany Hamilton

Bethany Hamilton is a shark attack survivor, at age thirteen as she was surfing and a shark attacked her and took most of her left arm. She started off as a competitive surfer at the age of eight. Bethany has continued to surf competitively even after her shark attack. She is a top womens surfer and has a movie made about her life. She has strong Christian beliefs and a tight knit family, she claims those two things combined are what got her through her traumatic experience.

I really enjoyed the book Soul Surfer, I thought it had a very dynamic story; it read like a fictional book. The book is about Bethany Hamilton who is a surfer that survived a shark attack. It’s a story I think many people will be able to identify with, because everyone has a something in life they struggle with and the story is based around Bethany’s personal struggle. This book was very inspirational, proving that even something as large as a missing limb can’t stop you from doing what you love. Bethany is very religious and even though she mentions god and jesus often it didn’t come off as if she were preaching to her audience; which I liked. The book left me feeling inspired and happy, I recommend reading Soul Surfer it was a really good book.
Profile Image for Krysta MacDonald.
Author 3 books95 followers
May 16, 2011
I borrowed this from the library at the Junior High school where I work. It was... alright. Maybe I would like it more if I were the target demographic, I don't know... I like cheesy, inspirational stories. And I typically really enjoy young adult books. But this one just felt like it tried too hard, which is odd, considering it was a true story, narrated by Bethany Hamilton herself. Am I so used to the manufactured bull that comes out of publishing companies and Hollywood that reality seems fake? Maybe, but regardless, I was disappointed. I wanted to hear about a struggle and overcoming it. I think her story is inspirational, but what I got from the book was being preached at. A side note - some of my students liked it, some didn't. Most were Christian, so it is not like I (or my students) was offended by all that talk, but it seemed to be the only focus of the book. I guess I was hoping for more. Maybe I am just expecting too much maturity and perspective out of a too-young author (she was only 14 when she first dictated this book)? I don't know; maybe.
2 reviews1 follower
January 13, 2016
Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton is a life changing true story about one girl's determination to get back on the board. It was such a normal day, the surf was low, so, Bethany was waiting patiently for the perfect wave, when out of now where there was a flash of gray and lots blood. Some how Bethany managed to swim to shore with a little help by her best friend Alana Blanchard, and thankfully into safety. After many months of recovering and learning how to live with one arm, Bethany manages to surf again. Without any time to spare Bethany Hamilton began to compete once again and became known all around the world, not only for her surfing skills, but also, her immense trust in God. I give this fascinating novel five out of five stars for its ability to captivate readers and bring them in the water right next to the shark. Bethany has become a strong hero in my life and I one day hope imitate her strength, courage, and determination.
Profile Image for Julie.
1,295 reviews8 followers
December 16, 2011
This was recommended to me because the story is so inspiring: a young girl is just starting to get recognition on the competitive surfing circuit when she loses an arm in a shark attack. She returns to competitive surfing and becomes a minor celebrity because of her many media appearances crediting her religious faith with keeping her positive. It is a good story, but it’s told in such a way that it really was “OMG! A shark just bit my arm off! But I love Christ, so it’s okay.”
Profile Image for Daniel Clausen.
Author 11 books467 followers
November 19, 2019
I'm going to leave this book unrated. I picked it up from the library on a whim. Some of the book is very uplifting, but the book can be extremely off-putting for non-Christians.
Profile Image for Lee.
977 reviews33 followers
April 12, 2017
Bethany Hamilton tells the story of how she came back to surfing after losing her left arm in a shark attack.

I watched Soul Surfer back when it came out, but I will admit that I didn't really find her as a source of inspiration until I watched her with her husband on The Amazing Race. She didn't let anything slow her down and that was once again clear throughout this book.

It found it amazing how calm she could be after the attack. Her faith remained incredibly strong afterward too which is another inspiration all in its.

Whether you agree with her faith or not, I do think this could be an inspirational read for anyone.
Profile Image for Mackenzie.
6 reviews
May 30, 2013
The main character in the book “Soul Surfer” by Bethany Hamilton is Bethany Hamilton. Soul Surfer is an autobiography, in the book, you get to read about Bethany's life before, during, and after her tragic attack. Bethany loved to surf and was a competitive surfer, so one day she went surfing with her friend and some others and while they were waiting for a wave a shark came up and took bethanys whole left arm. Its a miracle that she even survived the shark attack but it affected her career and her whole life. This book is about Bethany’s struggle to adapt to life with only one arm and make things work with what she had, "There's no such thing as a handicap - it's all in your head." (Hamilton183). The plot starts to develop when Bethany gets attacked by the shark.

There can be multiple themes to this book, it is a story of bravery, faith, and love that a thirteen-year- old girl experienced when her life was changed forever. I think Bethany told her story extremely well in this book, and it really made me feel close to her. Bethany’s story really did move me because Bethany writes about her true love for surfing and he struggle to become the best she could be. “Soul Surfer” is a book that will catch your attention from the very first page. It makes you realize that you should never give up, “I've learned life is a lot like surfing. When you get caught in the impact zone, you need to get right back up, because you never know what's over the next wave......and if you have faith, anything is possible, anything at all.” (Hamilton). Bethany is now one of the top surfers competing, and she only has one arm. She still has her friends, sponsor, and of course her family and she has let nothing stop her. Overall, yes I think everybody should read this book.

I definitely give this book a rating of 5 out of 5. I give “Soul Surfer” a 5 because “Soul Surfer” is a truly wonderful and exciting story, and I would recommend it to any of my friends. Although this book is a good choice for anybody, I think that girls about 12-16 would enjoy “Soul Surfer” the most. Bethany's story has really helped many people open their eyes and see what you can accomplish when you try hard. I think this is an excellent book and if you want to read a book that is inspiring but not sappy, “Soul Surfer” could just be the book for you.
Profile Image for Kaitlyn Lange.
8 reviews1 follower
December 9, 2013
The book I chose to read was Soul Surfer, by Bethany Hamilton. This story takes you through Bethany’s life, and you get to follow alongside Bethany to the shark attack, through recover, and even getting back on the board. For a first time author, Bethany Hamilton excelled at writing, and was able to craft a phenomenal story based off of her life.

The theme of the story is to never give up. If Bethany would have given up when things got tough, then she wouldn’t be where she was today. As a result of Bethany’s strong will, she was able to get back into the ocean, and back on her board. Ultimately, Bethany’s decision to fight through the tough times ended up changing her life, and gave her the opportunity to write her biography, Soul Surfer.

This story is a narration of Bethany Hamilton’s life. Bethany describes exactly what she felt from the moment she first surfed, to getting back on the board after the accident. Hamilton uses many details, and flashbacks to help you fully understand what she’s saying. This style was very effective. It caused the book to be almost addicting, and I didn’t want to put it down!

I really enjoyed this book for many reasons. I loved how it almost seemed as if you were with Bethany through every step of her recovery. You celebrated her accomplishments with her, and shared in her disappoint when things didn’t go her way. I also liked how the flashbacks helped describe certain moments. They showed a new perspective, and gave you an insight on her old life. The only thing I disliked was how short it was. I feel like Hamilton could have made the book longer, and included more information. The only thing I would change would be just that. If the book was a little bit bigger, it would have been perfect. While reading this book, I noticed how alike to the Burn Journals it was. Both stories contain teens overcoming challenges that have been placed in their lives, and both teens end up succeeding.

I give this book 5/5 stars. It was beautifully written, and extremely interesting. I often found myself on the edge of my seat, not wanting to place the book down. I would recommend this book to readers of all ages.
Profile Image for Madison.02.
25 reviews5 followers
April 8, 2020
I liked this book sometimes.I thought it could have ended better though. Because the ending,you could assume it and you would possibly be correct.So if i could have changed anything it would have been the conclusion.I recommend this to people who like books about surfing and shark attacks.
2 reviews
October 29, 2015
1. As Clear as Crystal

In the autobiography Soul Surfer, Bethany Hamilton uses a very captivating style of writing. While she is writing, she is telling her story but also explaining how she felt and thought during moments of the story. This shows a great balance of internal character development and external action. In my opinion, Bethany is a great writer because the method she uses makes her story easy to comprehend. She also has a way of letting me feel like I was there in the story with her. The choice of words and style of writing Bethany uses makes me want to keep reading to find out what will happens next.

2. Like Flowers in Spring

Bethany Hamilton is an amazing, strong, and kind person. Throughout her story, the actions she takes do not surprise me. At the end of the book, Bethany explains that even though she now has one arm, she won’t let that stand in her way of following her dreams and becoming a professional surfer. Her speaking habits are very believable. At the end of the book, Bethany explained “ I had about three to four weeks of healing and recovery before I could give surfing with one arm a try” (pg. 177). At the very end of this book, Bethany talks about what has happened to her since the book came out. She tells the readers that she is continuing to tell her story to people everywhere so they can learn that you should never give up on your dream. This is a perfect ending for Bethany’s book because is shows exactly who she is.

Emily Silampa
Profile Image for Allison.
359 reviews
August 16, 2016
Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton was an interesting listen! I had heard about the surfer that had lost her arm to a shark but I didn't know much more than that. It was amazing that she survived at all! It took them some time to get her to the hospital after the attack, she had lost at least half of her blood, and she had to have two surgeries before she was allowed to leave the hospital. Most people would have given up competitive surfing after something like this but not Bethany. She eventually got back on her board and went back to competitive surfing. She went on to write a book and her story was even made into a movie!! Bethany is one in a million and I am glad that I picked this up. Now, I need to watch the movie! Recommended!
Profile Image for Suz.
1,158 reviews603 followers
October 1, 2021
I took my daughter when she was maybe 12 to see Bethany at a church function two hours away. It was packed. We didn’t get to lay eyes on her. We sat outside on the ground squashed around heaps of people and saw her via a screen. My daughter got bitten by ants, and it was boiling hot in the Australian summer. I tried. She didn’t complain.

Amazing daughter. Amazing Bethany.
Profile Image for Brittany.
725 reviews25 followers
October 9, 2016
I downloaded this audiobook to listen to on a drive. It was way more religious than I expected, so it just wasn't my thing. I admire her perseverance, yet this book feels like a direct ploy for money from the Christian community.
Profile Image for Sara.
64 reviews5 followers
August 12, 2021

I enjoyed hearing (audiobook) the story of this brave young lady who excelled and maintained her beliefs and passion despite a severe setback. My rating reflects the organization and writing. Five star story, but I wish she would have had a little more help with the storytelling.
Profile Image for Anna Hardesty.
596 reviews
October 2, 2008
I loved this story. It was a little sad at first, but as I kept reading I realized how strong she was throughout all of it, and that shows that giving up is not the answer.
Profile Image for Bridget.
97 reviews19 followers
November 30, 2011
I probably would have liked this or found it inspiring if 89% of it wouldn't be her talking about her relationship with God/God's message/her fellowship. Buh.
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