When one surfs, they are no longer in the realm of normality. Their is wild life out there that will not be tamed. In the summer of 2005 I was living in the Hawaiian Island of O’ahu and had visited Kaua’i to unwind. The island is mystifying. It appears like a giant volcano jutting out from the water. Upon airplane approach the viewer sees an island surrounded by endless blue infinite ocean. From the cliffs of Waimea Canyon one has to ask themselves if they are not in the Grand Canyon.
The breadth and scope of Waimea Canyon, a wonder of the world, is simply another cosm in this varied ecosystem island that is Kaua’i. Daily, the surfing community enters the water to surf and catch waves. Invariably, because we are entering into the habitat of marine life and because the Hawaiian islands are the most remote group of islands on Earth, it is a major hub for whatever sea life is in the Pacific ocean, this includes… sharks. Those infamous moving monsters with rows of super-sharp teeth.
Just this last weekend, my daughter asked me if sharks are bad. I told her sharks were not bad, but if they were hungry, they wouldn’t maliciously plan or think it a ‘bad’ action to bite a human. Sharks are curious and don’t really like bony creatures as ourselves. Most shark attacks reflect this by releasing the victims rather quickly. One such victim who is now a champion is Bethany Hamilton. She is a professional surfer, mother and wife now, but back in the Kauai summer of 2003, Mrs. Hamilton had to fight off a great white shark at the age of 13.
Sharks love seals. They rely on their special kind of sonar electro-sensitive vision that shows them were life forces are beating. Their actual eyesight is not tremendous. Bethany Hamilton was attacked by a great white shark as she lay on her surfboard, an almost perfect silhouette of a seal floating on the surface. To the sharks credit, after chomping off Bethany’s left arm he refused to continue to devour her. He moved off and left the area. The shark was able to stop and reverse action even after it drew blood. It understood that this was not part of the normal diet and continued on its way after the bloody encounter.
Not long after, fisherman reported and photographed capture of a giant great white shark in the area, reputed to be the actual shark of the encounter.
Mrs. Hamilton’s life was inexplicably impacted. Early one morning, while surfing with her friend, Alana her life took a sudden turn. She was now armless and had to cope with the new reality.
Would being armless define her? Or would she outshine her disability and rise like a phoenix?
To overcome a great setback, clarity of purpose, vision and consistency of work towards the goal is part of the formula needed to attain and sustain success. The rest of the formula involves having an effective, positive support team and heaps of passion. Bethany Hamilton has all of these and keeps them in play. The shark encounter did not define her, but served as the beginning of a new chapter in her life, one where she actively took the pen to write in just how she wanted her life to be. Appreciating how fleeting life is, how fragile it stands before us shifts our mental attitudes toward an attitude of gratitude. Not wasting time, Mrs. Hamilton did just that and with great determination, she rebuilt herself against all odds. As a human being and as a woman who survived a great white shark attack, her path of empowerment has modeled that nothing is impossible if we set our hearts and minds to it.
What can I learn from Mrs. Hamilton’s example? No matter how hard things may seem at one given point, Bethany Hamilton battled the most feared creature known to man, lost an arm to the shark and now wins surfing contests. That is the growth mindset.