As Bethany Hamilton gears up for this month's Swatch Women’s Pro surfing event at Lower Trestles in San Clemente, she’s quick to acknowledge that the last 12 months have been a bit of a whirlwind.
From September through December 2014, the 25-year-old surfer — who lost her left arm in a shark attack as a teenager — was competing in "The Amazing Race" reality show alongside her husband, Adam Dirks. They ended up advancing to the season finale, finishing in third place.
“It was incredibly challenging, but so much fun at the same time,” Hamilton said. “I think I naturally like that sort of challenge. Both my husband and I are pretty competitive, so, yeah, we had a lot of fun doing it. Going into the race, we believed we could win it, so having that mind-set helped us make it as far as we did.”
After the show, the couple returned home hoping for some relaxation and downtime, but that didn’t last long: Hamilton found out she was pregnant. She didn’t enter any official surfing events after December. In June, Hamilton gave birth to a boy, Tobias.
“There’s something so special about having a kid, I can’t even explain it,” Hamilton said.
But Hamilton was itching to get back to surfing, and got her doctor's go-ahead five weeks after Tobias was born.
“I was getting really anxious, like, ‘I’ve got to get in the water already!’ But my trainer told me to wait another week to let my core kind of heal and give it some time before I start pushing it,” Hamilton said. “I remember my first session back, my stomach felt so weak, it felt totally different and off. But at the same time, it felt amazing to get back in the water. From there, I slowly worked my way back into it and started doing off-water training as well to re-strengthen my core and overall fitness.”
Now Hamilton is physically and mentally prepared for the Swatch Women’s Pro, which runs from Wednesday through Sept. 20.
“This kind of gave me something to works toward,” Hamilton said. “I grew up competing against all of these girls, so I feel right at home getting into a heat with them.”
As for her transition to parenthood, Hamilton says she’s found her groove.
“Life with one arm is pretty normal,” Hamilton said. “Adjusting to being a mom with one arm, I knew there’d be different challenges — changing diapers, holding him — especially when they’re young and their necks are so flimsy. There was some apprehension going into that, but now, I’ve kind of conquered it.”
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