‘Soul Surfer’ Who Lost Her Arm in Shark Attack Delivers Powerful Message of Faith and Perseverance

The woman known as the “soul surfer” who lost her arm in a shark attack but went on to become a professional surfer said her faith in Jesus Christ carried her through the emotional pain and uncertainty she felt after her accident.

Bethany Hamilton told her story at the annual National Prayer Breakfast Thursday in Washington, D.C., for an audience that included President Barack Obama and members of Congress.

“I thought for a time I had lost more than just my arm,” said Hamilton, who was attacked by a 14-foot shark when she was 13 years old in 2003. “I [felt] as though my hopes and dreams to become a pro surfer and venture the world were stripped away.”

Hamilton, whose story was featured in the 2011 film “Soul Surfer,” said her faith in Jesus helped her to lean on “his understanding” rather than her own — a paradigm that helped her power through the many obstacles she faced.

President Barack Obama applauds Bethany Hamilton, a surfer from Hawaii who lost her arm in a shark attack when she was 13 years old, during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 2014. (AFP/Jewel Samad)

Rather than continuing to mourn the body she once had, Hamilton said the experience has helped her grow spiritually.

“I have no regrets for the adversity that God has allowed me to go through,” she told the audience. “I am now honored to be a role model and inspiration to many young girls throughout America and the world — ultimately, to share the hope and salvation there is in Jesus Christ.”

Hamilton said that while some might be tempted to pity her, she views the 2003 attack and its resulting impact on her life as “something beautiful.”

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama applaud shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 2014. (AFP/Getty Images/Jewel Samad)

Hamilton was attacked in October 2003 while surfing off Kauai’s North Shore in Hawaii.

She lost her arm and more than 60 percent of her blood, but her website affirms that “her strong water sense and faith in God helped get her through the traumatic ordeal.”

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