Thursday, January 22, 2004

Surfer Bethany Hamilton, of Princeville, Kauai, prepared to snowboard at the Steamboat ski resort Tuesday in Steamboat Springs, Colo. The 13-year-old competitive surfer lost her left arm last October in a shark attack off Kauai.

Shark attack victim
hits the slopes

Bethany Hamilton travels to
Colorado to fulfill her dream
of learning to snowboard

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. >> Bethany Hamilton looks like a typical teenage snowboarder in a turquoise Hawaiian-flowered vest, blue ski jacket and earflap cap.

But her sun-bleached hair and deep tan are sure giveaways that she spends most of her time on a surfboard.

The 13-year-old top-ranked amateur surfer nearly died when attacked by a shark Oct. 31 off Kauai. She lost her left arm and more than half her blood in the attack but became an international celebrity for her optimism-filled survival.

Hamilton had always wanted to learn to snowboard, said her mother, Cheri. So after the accident, she told her daughter, "As soon as you're well, you're going snowboarding, girl."

On Saturday, Hamilton strapped on a snowboard and hit the slopes for the first time at Steamboat Ski Resort in northwestern Colorado. Within a few days she went from sliding down the bunny hill to carving smooth turns on intermediate slopes.

Hamilton carved smooth turns on intermediate slopes after just a few lessons.

Some snowboarding motions are similar to surfing, Bethany said yesterday, but there are some big differences.

"The (surfing) ride is way shorter, and you have to paddle back out," she said. With snowboarding, "it's one long run, and you take the lift back up."

Snowboarding takes less arm strength than surfing because it does not require paddling to catch a wave, her mother said.

Bethany, her parents and two older brothers spent about five days in Steamboat Springs this week. The vacation was organized and paid for with help from United Airlines, Black Diamond Express, Bear Claw Condominiums and the Steamboat Ski Area.

Although she enjoyed her time on the mountain, Bethany remains dedicated to the ocean. She returned to surfing competition earlier this month, though she may have to put her plans to be a world-class surfer on hold.

The whole family has felt that change, Cheri Hamilton said. They have watched the world-champion dreams slip away but feel those plans have been replaced by a purpose that is "going to be bigger and better in the long run," she said.

Bethany said she feels the attack has a purpose, even though it might not be one she understands now.

"For me, I just look up to God," she said. "I should be grateful for what I have."


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