Getting Back on Board

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, December 8, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Our next guest was a top amateur surfer and had plans to go pro when she lost an arm to a 15-foot tiger shark while surfing, but this 13-year- old has no plans of giving up her dreams just yet.

Joining us now to recount her terrifying experience and tell us what her future holds is shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton and her father, Tom Hamilton.

Tom, nice to meet you.

Bethany, thanks for being here.


COLMES: Is it hard for you to relive that moment and talk about it?

BETHANY HAMILTON, SHARK ATTACK SURVIVOR: Not really. But I've said it so many times it's like...

COLMES: People have heard you say it, too. What I found fascinating about it is when you talked about the things that went through your mind. While this was happening.

B. HAMILTON: Oh, yes.

COLMES: You had some really unusual thoughts.

B. HAMILTON: Yes. I thought like, "Oh, I wonder if I'm going to lose my sponsors?" And then I was also praying, like, to God for help and stuff.

COLMES: And Tom, she handled it quite well, didn't she, in terms of emotionally coping with something that you hope never happens to anybody?

T. HAMILTON: Yes, she's an incredible inspiration, and mentally tough and physically very tough.

COLMES: And you decided right away you wanted to get back; there was never any thought that you would continue to surf, right?


COLMES: And you, from what I understand, you got a plastic tube to practice at home where you got right back up.

B. HAMILTON: Yes. It's called a balance board.

COLMES: Right. So right away, Tom? She just didn't want to waste any time getting back up on that?

T. HAMILTON: I think she was training for, you know, when she did go back in the water.

COLMES: Tell us what was happening to you at that moment?

B. HAMILTON: On October 31?

COLMES: Yes, yes.

B. HAMILTON: You want the story?

COLMES: Please.

B. HAMILTON: OK. I woke up around 5 a.m., and me and my mom went out to Tunnels, and I met Alana there, and...

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Bethany. How are you?


HANNITY: I'm watching you surf here, you know, since this accident occurred. It's got to be more difficult because you need, you need both arms to balance, right? And by the way, I don't know how to surf so you're going to have to teach me one day. But you need both arms to balance, right?

B. HAMILTON: I guess, well, I wouldn't say that, because I didn't really need both arms to balance, so...

HANNITY: Do you think you could now surf as well as you were before the accident?

B. HAMILTON: Pretty soon I will be able to.

HANNITY: Pretty soon. So you lost a little bit of skill, but it's going to take a little while to get used to it, right?

B. HAMILTON: I think I just need a little tuning up.

HANNITY: Yes. Now, you're going to get a prosthetic, right? You're going to get an artificial arm put in pretty soon?

B. HAMILTON: Yes, pretty soon.

HANNITY: Yes. Let me -- you have this -- we keep hearing about people who have had these accidents or guys that have been in war. And they have the feeling that their arm is still there, that phantom arm. Have you felt that?

B. HAMILTON: Actually yes. I've felt that a lot.

HANNITY: Yes. Is it just -- because it's so amazing, No. 1, that you didn't even cry when this happened. That you're so mature about all of this in terms of your outlook on life and your desire to get back on the board and just go forward in your life and everything.

I just -- do you realize that's kind of special or no?

B. HAMILTON: I don't really think of that, no.

HANNITY: Dad, I bet you're pretty proud because here, your daughter, you know, has shown more courage than I think 99 percent of adults would show in what is a very difficult thing.

T. HAMILTON: I've been really impressed with her whole outlook on the accident and how she's looking towards the future and preparing for getting back to a level where she can actually compete.

HANNITY: All right, Bethany. We didn't get to the issue, all of a sudden you're out there. First of all, had you ever seen sharks before in the water?


HANNITY: That's a pretty scary thing for a 13-year-old girl to be swimming out there with the sharks, getting ready to catch these waves.


HANNITY: Yes. All right. So when it actually happened, I know you looked down and saw red, did you feel anything? Did you know right away your arm was severed?

B. HAMILTON: I felt something, but it wasn't something painful.

HANNITY: It wasn't -- But you actually swam back on your own, you know, even having gotten that trauma, right? You told your friends to help you, but you basically swam in on your own?

B. HAMILTON: No. I don't know where you got that from. But pretty much I -- Alana's dad pulled me in the whole way.



HANNITY: And now Tom, you were actually preparing for knee surgery. You were in the hospital. And the next thing you hear is they needed to move you out because a young girl had been a victim of a shark attack. And right away, your thoughts went to your daughter, because you knew she was surfing that day?

T. HAMILTON: Yes, I knew it was -- my gut reaction was, I knew it was her or her friend Alana. But my surgeon came in and told me. I wasn't aware totally.

COLMES: Alana's father, Bethany, did something they say could have saved your life.

B. HAMILTON: Yes. He tied a leash around my arm, which is used as a tourniquet.

COLMES: Yes. Like a tourniquet. And that stopped the bleeding and that basically is why we're able to talk to you today. You've got to be grateful for that.

T. HAMILTON: Yes. He did a tremendous job.

COLMES: What's happening, Tom, medically? What -- where do we go from here? How does this -- What happens to Bethany?

T. HAMILTON: Well, we just spent some time in Los Angeles with Hanger Prosthetics, and they did some casting on her right arm, and they're trying to make her a left arm, you know. It's in the process.

COLMES: It's amazing what they can do medically now, too, which is really -- You, Bethany, you would like to -- would you still have the desire to go pro one day and surf professionally?

B. HAMILTON: Yes, maybe.

COLMES: You'd like to do that. What does it mean that you're a goofy foot surfer? That's a phrase used in surfing circles.

B. HAMILTON: OK. Well, there's a goofy foot and a regular foot. OK. It's kind of like left-handed and right-handed.

COLMES: But you lead with your right foot and you pivot with your left foot, right?

B. HAMILTON: Sometimes waves peel that way. And then I guess a right foot, and then you peel this...

COLMES: You do it the opposite way?

HANNITY: Hey, Bethany...

B. HAMILTON: Yes. It's the left. So I would face forward on a left of a wave so that would be goofy foot.

HANNITY: Bethany, you're a very brave young 13-year-old girl. We wish you all the best in your future and we're very -- you should be very proud of how you handled this. And thanks for being with us tonight, and also thanks to your dad.

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