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#2341 - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - Editor: Jerry Katz
Surfing still hasn't seen the emergence of a nondual literature as have, to one degree or another, baseball, basketball, archery, boxing, running, the martial arts. However there is a spiritual literature associated with surfing and I've brought it to the Highlights over the years. Here is another article on the spirituality of surfing.
From the article below:
"For Bethany, surfing is a form of prayer, a manifestation of faith. Cutting against the grain of the old surfing stereotype, she recently made an anti-drug commercial. She is a national hero, a latter-day angel, a synthesis of surfing, salvation, and cinema.
"But Bethany always was and remains a serious long-term wave-user. She is the real deal, unfazed by trauma or celebrity. She has recovered superbly from her brush with the apocalypse and, given a few years, could yet make an impact on the pro ranks. She doesn't really need to pitch any message: she is the message."
Bethany Hamilton's website is http://www.bethanyhamilton.com/
Bethany Hamilton: Triumph of a free spirit
In 2003, 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton's arm was ripped off
by a huge
shark. Weeks later she was back in the water. Now she's riding high.
Andrew Martin meets her Published: 14 December 2005
There is a warning sign along the sandy track leading down to
beach: "LEAVE THIS SIDE CLEAR FOR EMERGENCY VEHICLES". Behind me,
steep serrated green crags are stacked up like immense teeth. This is
where it happened, I can't help thinking as I stroke out over the
disturbingly shallow reef. Here, at "Tunnels" on the Hawaiian island
of Kauai, about 8am on the morning of Halloween, 31 October 2003,
13-year-old Bethany Hamilton was floating on her board in the
crystal-clear waters of the Pacific, dreaming of the perfect wave,
when a 15ft tiger shark knifed up out of the water alongside her. The
great jaws opened then snapped shut. It swam away, having bitten off
a crescent-shaped chunk of her red, white, and blue board and 90 per
cent of Bethany Hamilton's left arm.
She was out surfing with her best friend, Alana Blanchard, and
best friend's dad. Blanchard senior ripped off his vest and used it
as a tourniquet on what was left of the girl's arm and slowly,
agonisingly, they guided her to shore. In the ambulance that took
Bethany to the nearest hospital (nearly an hour away) the paramedics
thought she had lost so much blood that she was going to die.
By an uncanny coincidence, her own father was in the operating
theatre about to have surgery on his knee. He was wheeled out to make
way for a terribly injured girl who had been out surfing at Tunnels.
Tom Hamilton knew then it could only be Alana or his own
was his worst nightmare come true, every father's worst nightmare,
everybody's worst nightmare: Jaws, The Beast, Little Red Riding Hood.
It struck a universal chord of horror: the next day a paper published
a picture of the surfboard with the chunk bitten out of it.
Fast forward to today and go a few miles east, to the
lovely Hanalei Bay. There are maybe a dozen guys out on a lazy 4ft
day at the break known as "Pine Trees". And a girl. She is quite
distinctive. As the woman who works at the Hanalei Surf Shop said to
me: "You can't miss her. She's 15, blonde, and has only one arm."
Added to which, even in the fearsomely competitive Hawaiian
Bethany Hamilton is still the best surfer out there, grabbing more
than her fair share of waves, and carving radical, aggressive lines
into the face.
There's always something magical and mysterious about surfing:
walking on water, rising to your feet and staying on them even as the
wave is crashing down and trying to take you down with it. But to see
a girl with one arm doing all of the above is little short of
miraculous. She can still paddle after a fashion, using one arm and a
foot dropping off the back of the board. And she has developed a
technique of positioning herself right on the peak, in effect making
a late take-off every time, dropping down the face and levering
herself up by shoving down on a wooden handle strapped to the deck.
We have the kind of salty, halting, monosyllabic conversation,
punctuated by passing waves, that you have in the water:
Me: "Good wave."
Me: "Liked your book."
The book I refer to is called Soul Surfer: A True
Story of Faith,
Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. There are a couple of
other monosyllables I think about uttering: one of them is "shark",
the other, "God", and they both play a big part in the book. But one
way and another I can't quite spit them out.
link to Amazon.com: http://snipurl.com/krt0
Back on the beach, she's surrounded by a cordon sanitaire of
intimidating bodyguards: a crowd of other blonde 15-year-olds in
bikinis. It was lucky I was standing there in baggy shorts or I may
have been tempted to ask for an autograph. As it is, I awkwardly
shake her by the hand. I come within a whisker of bowing.
Bethany Hamilton is a classic girl-next-door, tall and slim,
with streaky blonde hair, freckles on her face and braces on her
teeth. Her conversational staples are "yeah" and "uh-huh". She lives
with her parents, two brothers and a dog in a sprawling house with
banana trees in the garden in the secluded village of Princeville
that stands on the bluffs overlooking Hanalei Bay.
She likes to go to the cinema and one of her favourites is The
Passion of the Christ. And she is, so far as it is possible to make
out on the back of our brief encounter, stupendously unaffected by
either the shark or the subsequent wave - the tsunami of attention
she has received in America.
One of the first things she said, while recovering in
"When can I go surfing again?" One of the second was, "Does this mean
I'm going to lose my sponsorship?" Gary Dunne, team manager of the
surfing company Rip Curl, flew from Australia to reassure her on
that. Rip Curl has sponsored her since, at the age of 10, she started
winning nearly every title that a 10-year-old girl can win. "Our
ambition," he said, "is to see her surfing again just as well as she
would have done without the bloody shark."
She got back in the water a bare few weeks after the
Now she has her own coach, and she recently won an amateur National
Surfing Association title in California (although she also went out
early in the two pro-contests on Oahu, at Haleiwa and Sunset Beach).
As far as Rip Curl was concerned, she could go on just as before.
But Dunne was not the only bedside visitor. Among the swarm of
advisers and consultants who fell over themselves to offer their
services, Roy Hofstetter stood out. A "Hollywood agent", with an
office in Beverly Hills, he had white hair and a very smart suit. As
far as he was concerned, everything had changed. Bethany was no
longer a surfer, she was a potential "superstar". He went into
overdrive and engineered a feeding frenzy among competing television
shows. Soon the girl with true grit, the girl who never lost her
faith even if she lost her arm, was on screens coast-to-coast. She
was on Oprah. She was on Tonight and on a programme entitled
Soon Hofstetter, talking phone numbers, had sold the film
her story to a major production company. And he even had her giving
speeches to the troops, marines wounded in Iraq (although in fact she
forgot her speech and took questions instead). "You could say that we
have been hired by George Bush," he announced.
In Hawaii for the Rip Curl Pipeline Masters, Dunne said this
"We didn't want to commodify her. We didn't want to go down the
But Bethany Hamilton has become a commodity. Her name is
merchandise. Already on sale is a "Bethany Fragrance" - with two
lines, "Wired" and "Stoked", enticingly presented in surfboard-shaped
bottles. Bethany jewellery is coming soon. Earlier this year her
autobiography was published. She engagingly admits that, "I never
wanted to write a book," but was talked into it.
Hofstetter was one of the persuaders. It took teamwork to get
done. First she poured out all her raw feelings to her pastor at the
Kauai Christian Fellowship, Rick Bundschuh; he then wrote down the
first draft, which was conveyed to Sheryl Berk in New York, who had
already ghosted the lives of Britney Spears (Stages) and Sopranos
star Jamie-Lynn DiScala (Wise Girl).
I really do - as I said - like her book. All those vicious
metaphors - "rip", "carve", "shred" - are made shockingly literal.
It's a fairytale, a myth that happens to be true, of being swallowed
by the monster and making an amazing escape. It's little short of
resurrection story, rising from a watery grave. And it is a good news
story, of overcoming immense pain and suffering, of the inspirational
There is a lot about God in it, too. God is not an add-on in
Hamilton's young life, an embroidery stitched in by an over-zealous
pastor. God saw her through her troubles and gave her the strength to
get back on her board. The sceptical question I couldn't bring myself
to formulate out at Pine Trees was: if God was keeping such a
tremendously close and benevolent eye on you, how come he dozed off
that morning at Tunnels?
I already knew her answer: it was the trial she had to endure,
Job, just as others, too, must endure theirs. In the US, in the 21st
century, it was a tremendously powerful message. Hamilton was taken
up by the evangelical lobby and put on show as a wounded born-again
icon at a rally of 50,000 believers in Washington. She won not only
an award for the best comeback but another for being "Most Inspiring
Person of the Year". She had become Saint Bethany.
The Bethany Hamilton story symbolises a metamorphosis within
In the 19th century, buttoned-up east-coast Puritan evangelists
sailed to Hawaii and denounced surfing as a pagan exercise in
idolatry only one notch below mass orgies and cannibalism. In the
20th century, surfing underwent a renaissance as the sport - not even
a sport, more a statement, graffiti on waves - of the rebel, the
anarchist, the outsider, a whole marginal subculture of alienated
youth. In the new millennium, Christianity has shrewdly reclaimed
surfing for itself.
Surfing has always been transcendental in spirit. But it had a
dreamy, mystic, Zen flavour. Shaun Thomson, South African 1970s world
champion, said: "Time slows down in the tube." Surfing was a
hallucinatory drug and surfers returned to the beach looking as if
they were still in a trance. But then it started to get mainstream
and wholesome. Surfers, instead of being stubbly, dedicated losers
from broken homes, became solid citizens with supportive parents.
With the rise of the surf industry, they became athletes.
Now, as the writer Cintra Wilson scathingly remarked in her
"Jesus Christ, Personal Friend of Surfing": "Many [surfers] are big
Jesus freaks, in a real Old Testament, Book of Jeremiah, the
Apocalypse-cometh kind of way." There are Christian surfing contests.
And a lot of people in surfing want to be Jesus Christ. Ex-champ Tom
Curren has distributed Bibles on the beach (and, what's more
perplexing, he signed them).
For Bethany, surfing is a form of prayer, a manifestation of
Cutting against the grain of the old surfing stereotype, she recently
made an anti-drug commercial. She is a national hero, a latter-day
angel, a synthesis of surfing, salvation, and cinema.
But Bethany always was and remains a serious long-term
is the real deal, unfazed by trauma or celebrity. She has recovered
superbly from her brush with the apocalypse and, given a few years,
could yet make an impact on the pro ranks. She doesn't really need to
pitch any message: she is the message.
They caught the beast that chewed off her arm and strung it up
hook, its once terrible jaws hanging slackly open. But there are
still plenty of sharks out there, not just in the water: especially
not in the water. I hope she can out-surf them, too.
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