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‘Soul Surfer’ Bethany Hamilton Takes Stand Against World Surf League Over New Transgender Policy

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Screenshots from Instagram / @bethanyhamilton

“Soul Surfer” Bethany Hamilton has announced that she will not compete in or support the World Surf League (WSL) as long as the organization allows trans women to compete in women’s surfing. Hamilton, who is a shark attack survivor and a Christian, expressed her views in two Instagram videos posted this week. 

“While I address this issue, I want to be clear that I strive to have love for all of mankind, regardless of any differences,” said Hamilton in her first video. “But this concerns me as a professional athlete that has been competing in the World Surf League…for the past 15+ years. And I feel that I must speak up and stand up for those in position that may feel that they cannot say something about this. I think many of the girls currently on tour are not in support with this new rule, and they fear of being [sic] ostracized if they speak up.”


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Bethany Hamilton Raises Questions About Policy

On Monday, Feb. 6, the World Surf League announced that it had adopted the International Surfing Association’s (ISA) transgender policy. The ISA’s policy states, “An athlete who was assigned male at birth and whose gender has changed and identifies as a woman, and/or has woman/female, ‘other’ or ‘X’ on her passport or national identity card” may compete as a woman so long as “her serum testosterone concentration has been less than 5 nmol/L continuously for a period of the previous 12 months.” These individuals must also meet “any other requirements reasonably set by the Executive Committee and/or Medical Commission.”

Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer, author, speaker and advocate. At the age of 13, a 14-foot tiger shark bit off her left arm while Hamilton was out surfing. She not only survived the attack but actually returned to surfing one month later. She won her first national surfing title two years later and turned professional at age 17. In 2016, when competing in the WSL, she beat a six-time world champion who was the top-ranked surfer in the world. 

Hamilton, who is married to youth pastor Adam Dirks and has three children, speaks openly and often about her faith in God and how he has sustained her through the challenges she has faced. She sees surfing as a “gift from God” and writes, “For Adam and me, our journeys have been heavily reliant on the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. We can be assured that when we fail, God still loves and accepts us as we are. When we are lost and distant, He is there with us. When we turn our backs on God, His arms are still wide open. When we are weak, He is strong. When we are broken, He brings healing.”

Hamilton’s story was dramatized in the 2011 movie, “Soul Surfer,” which followed her book “Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board.” In 2018, her life was the focus of the documentary, “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable.”

After explaining the purpose behind her video on the WSL’s transgender policy, Hamilton listed a series of questions she believes it is important to consider:

-How is this rule playing out in other sports like swimming, running, MMA?

-Have any of the current surfers in the World Surf League been asked what their thoughts and opinions are on this new rule before it was passed or announced?