Bethany Hamilton draws crowd at Costco

LIHUE — The line of people snaked up and down and around two aisles Sunday at Costco. Others walking by with carts slowed and looked around as they navigated through the crowd.

Even by Costco standards, this was a long, long line.

“What’s going on?” one woman asked as she passed.

“It’s Bethany signing her book,” answered a man.

“Oh, Bethany,” the woman said, nodding. She now understood the reason for this mob of excited keiki to kupuna inside the retailer on a sunny afternoon.

The occasion?

Kauai’s Bethany Hamilton was there. The pro surfer, wife, mom and author was signing copies of her books, “Soul Surfer,” and “Body & Soul: A Girl’s Guide to a Fit, Fun and Fabulous Life” that she wrote with Dustin Dillberg, who was signing books, too.

Hamilton was friendly, personable and fun, and smiled often as she chatted with fans, posed for pictures, answered question, talked story and gave autographs. “Thanks for coming,” she said often, as she waved good-bye to fans leaving with signed books.

The session was slated for 1 to 2 p.m., but after an hour, the line still stretched past shelves, so she stayed later. Some people had arrived as early as 10 a.m. to claim their spot in line.

Hamilton’s popularity continues to grow.

“I think people are just still blown away by her story,” said Becky Hamilton, her executive assistant. “Obviously, there’s a next generation, too, just hearing her story for the first time and they’re just in awe.

“They’re being blessed by God through her story,” she added.

Bethany Hamilton was 13 when she lost her left arm to a tiger shark while surfing at Tunnels Beach in 2003. She returned to surfing, and went on to become a professional surfer. She still competes today. Her foundation, Friends of Bethany Hamilton, is a nonprofit whose goal is to “encourage a broken world by offering hope to overcome through Jesus Christ.”

Helen Cooper of Virginia saw a poster promoting Hamilton’s book signing but didn’t tell her daughter, Maddy, about it until Sunday morning as a surprise.

She told her she was taking her to see someone special, a famous surfer.

Maddy Cooper knew.

“Bethany!” she said.

“She’s a big fan of ‘Soul Surfer,’” Helen said. “Her story is amazing.”

“To be here on vacation and meet Bethany, that’s like, ‘Wow,’” she said.

Maddy loves to boogie board and spends a lot of time in the water. She follows Bethany Hamilton on social media and keeps tabs on her career and family.

“She’s really cool,” Maddy said.

Shana Maguire of Lihue bought copies of Bethany’s book as gifts for nephews who were just here on vacation from Boston and saw Bethany’s picture at Jamba Juice.

She waited an hour and said she was delighted to meet the star.

“She is very inspiring,” Maguire said.

Natalie Waumans of El Paso, Texas, brought her two children, Allie and James, to meet Hamilton and get their picture taken with her.

Waumans was a senior in high school when Hamilton was attacked. She said despite the loss of her arm, Hamilton never gave up on her dreams and displayed great courage.

“Just to see her get right back out and there and do what she loved, it was so inspiring to me,” she said.

Her children are interested in surfing, Waumans said.

“Unfortunately, we live in the desert,” she said, laughing.

Gary Tom of California, at the book signing with his family, said he and his wife were fans of “Amazing Race,” when Hamilton and her husband, Adam Dirks, were on the TV show.

They asked Hamilton about her favorite place she visited while competing in “Amazing Race.”

“She said Malta. I thought, that’s an interesting place to go,” Gary Tom said, smiling.

Gabby Tom, a national champion figure skater, said she’s watched “Soul Surfer” and as an athlete, loves Hamilton’s story.

“I was really inspired how she fought through the shark attack; she stayed so calm, she really survived it,” she said.

Erika Wong of California, a national champion fencer, chatted with Hamilton briefly and asked what she thinks about when she’s trying to get through a tough event.

She found the answer uplifting.

“Finding strength through God,” Hamilton told her.


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