In 2004, Kaua‘i surfer Bethany Hamilton made her first trip to ESPN’s annual ESPY Awards. Then, the 14-year-old was one year removed from a shark attack that took most of her left arm. She was nominated for Comeback Athlete of the Year and won, beating out the likes of professional golfer John Daly and University of Oklahoma quarterback Jason White.
Seven years later, Hamilton, now 21, is heading back to the ESPYs and looking to take home another award, and this time, some memories.
“I don’t really remember a whole lot from the first time. I was a lot younger,” Hamilton said. “I’m just excited to be nominated. I think it’s a great event. You get to meet some of the most talented athletes in the world.”
“Soul Surfer”, the movie based on Hamilton’s inspiring tale, is nominated in the ESPY’s Best Sports Movie category, along with movies Secretariat, Win Win and the Academy Award nominated The Fighter. The winner is decided by fan votes.
Since Soul Surfer opened in theaters last April, Hamilton has been all over the world promoting the movie. Before heading to the ESPYs in Los Angeles, Hamilton will first make appearances in Georgia and Arkansas before heading to the awards.
“It’s been amazing the last couple of years. I’m really happy with how the movie turned out. They captured everything we’ve been through really well,” she said. “But it feels great that it’s finally starting to wind down. We’ve done a lot of promotions and I’m kind of looking forward to that part being over.”
Hamilton just returned to Kaua‘i after a surfing trip in Indonesia. The trip went well until Hamilton cut her arm on the fin of her board. After seeing doctors, it was determined that Hamilton damaged nerves in her arm and she had surgery earlier this week on O‘ahu.
“I lost a bit of feeling in my arm,” she said. “It was pretty crazy, but it could have been a lot worse.”
Hamilton said she has to stay out of the water for at least a month while her arm heals. This will prove to be a difficult task, as even after all of the fanfare and promotions for the movie, the water still beckons to her.
“Whenever I’m near an ocean I’m in the water,” she said. “I’m still a surf addict.”
Voting for Soul Surfer can be done at espn.go.com/espys/#!/voting. Voting closes on July 9.
The ESPYs air live on ESPN on Wednesday, July 13 at 3 p.m.