Authors: Rick Bundschuh
By Rick Bundschuh
Inspired by Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton is more than a great surfer; she is a great athlete. Surfing just happens to be her sport of choice. Watching her in action, I am sure she would excel at just about anything she set her heart on.
Like most terrific athletes, Bethany has natural talent. But in addition to that, she also trains hard, is careful about what she eats, and often pushes herself physically past the comfort zone of most people.
The idea for this story actually came from listening to Bethany talk ever so casually to some of her friends about running in one of the remote valleys that hug the towering cliffs on Kauai’s north shore … for fun.
Now for most people, the trek that she mentioned as if it were a stroll in the park is a pretty tough little hike over uneven ground with not a handrail in sight to keep the careless from plunging over a thousand-foot cliff.
And it can be treacherous. People do get in trouble on that same hike that Bethany sometimes uses as a training ground. Some of those people are experience hikers, some are merely foolish.
This story is also about surprises.
A typical uneventful day can suddenly turn out to be an adventure. A simple kind gesture can set in motion a chain of blessings much bigger than we could ever have imagined.
God especially likes to surprise us by showing up just when he is needed most.
It is often when life turns from easy to extreme that we find the limits of our own abilities … and the unlimited love, strength, and power of God.
Now you may not be a natural athlete like Bethany, but it is my prayer that her grit, self-discipline, and determination might encourage you to push harder to be better at whatever good thing you set your mind to do.
And see if God doesn’t throw a few of his surprises in for you at the same time.
How did it get dark so quickly? It was way too dark …
So dark that Bethany had no idea she was falling until she felt the wind rushing through her long blonde hair—felt the sudden odd weightless sensation envelop her like the floor dropping out from underneath her on one of the crazy amusement park rides that she and her brothers loved to go on.
Except she didn’t exactly feel like laughing and screaming her guts out. Well, screaming, maybe. But not laughing. At least not yet …
Her back suddenly slapped against water. Natural instinct immediately took over, and she began to scissor her legs back and forth, treading the cold water as she squinted through the dark to get her bearings.
Tiny flashes of lightning flickered, glancing off the waves rolling and surging around her.
she thought grimly.
The kind of huge swells you get in a bad storm.
As soon as she had that thought, the sound of thunder boomed overhead and a heavy, windswept rain began to fall around her.
Bethany felt a shiver of fear as she tried to blink the rain out of her eyes. Then, as her vision cleared, she spotted a large outcropping of rock a short distance away, and her fear was quickly replaced with determination. She began to swim for the rock.
You can do this, Hamilton!
Bethany gritted her teeth and focused on the strength of her right arm and her legs to propel her through the choppy water. She reminded herself of the hours spent
with the swim team—on the workouts that she had developed to strengthen every muscle.
Come on! You’ve trained for times like this!
A huge wave rolled over her, but she pushed the panic aside as she struggled to keep her nose and mouth above the water. Her teeth chattered.
No time for freaking out!
She waited for a lull between waves and craned her neck to catch a glimpse of the rock. She was over halfway there.
Just a little farther …
Bethany kicked her legs for all she was worth, using her right arm in a powerful side stroke that she had developed not long after she’d lost her arm … and then she felt something brush past her leg.
She squeezed her eyes shut, willing herself not to think about the attack — not to think about what might be in the water with her right now—and continued to swim. The waves were growing larger and stronger, and in spite of all of her training, she felt the last of her strength being sucked out of her. For the first time since the whole nightmare started, she wondered if she was going to make it.
Please, God …
Suddenly she felt the edge of the rock scrape against her hand. A dizzying kind of relief washed over her, giving her just enough strength to grab on to the rock with one arm as she pulled herself out of the water.
Weak and shivering like crazy, Bethany barely managed to drag herself up on the rock. Even through the thick sheet of rain, she could see that her arm and legs were majorly banged up, but she felt herself grin in spite of it all as she looked to the sky. The black storm clouds were retreating, and she could see a glimpse of sunshine breaking through. She struggled to a sitting position, wet
and still shivering but never so happy in her life to see the sun.
Bethany brushed her hair out of her eyes and scanned the horizon hopefully for someone—anyone—that could help her. There was no one. Nothing but dark crashing waves of water as far as her eyes could see.
The wind and rain abruptly disappeared, as if they were sucked away by a huge vacuum. Everything went still. She looked around, not really sure what was happening, when she felt a warm, syrupy feeling wash over her. The kind of feeling she got when she fell asleep between her mom and dad on the couch while watching TV. Protected. Like everything was okay.
Bethany bolted awake and looked around. Surf posters glinted in the moonlight. Swimsuits draped over the back of a chair. A Switchfoot CD lay open on the floor. She wasn’t in the middle of an ocean. She was …
She breathed a huge sigh of relief and flopped back against her pillow.
Just a dream.
“My lungs are going to collapse!” Holly Silva gasped as she melted into a human puddle on the park grass. “I can’t believe you talked me into this!”
“You’re welcome,” Bethany panted as she landed next to Holly with a grin. She never got tired of running at Hanalei Bay. Surrounded by towering green cliffs and waterfalls that seemed to go on forever, it was like having a running trail in the middle of Jurassic Park. Minus the man-eating dinosaurs, of course.
The run had been good for her, she thought, glancing up at the wide blue bowl of sky. Good enough to shake off the cloud that had been looming over her ever since waking from that crazy dream.
“How many miles was that?”
Bethany glanced over as Holly threw her arms wide across the grass. Bethany smiled. The cool thing about hanging with Holly was you couldn’t stay in a weird mood for long.
“Miles? More like one mile,” Bethany said, and then laughed as Holly’s green eyes widened in disbelief. “It’s running in the sand that gets you.”
“It’s running in the sand
surfing all morning. No wonder Malia and Jenna bailed on us!”
“Malia and Jenna aren’t as gullible as you,” Bethany teased. Bethany had to bite her lip to keep from giggling as her friend sat up. Holly’s short brown hair was dark with sweat and sticking up all over the place.
“It’s winter training, Holly,” Bethany continued when she was able to talk without laughing. “You’ll be glad you did it with me when you survive Hanalei Bay when it’s fifteen feet.”
“News flash, Bethany; I don’t like to surf when it’s fifteen feet—
like to surf when it’s fifteen feet!” Holly narrowed her eyes. “And why do you keep looking at my hair?”
“Well …” Bethany burst out laughing. “It’s a little scary.”
“Ugh,” Holly groaned, running her hands through her hair as her eyes darted toward the cute surfers tossing a Frisbee on the beach. “That’s what I get for following you around the bay twice!”
Bethany smiled as she turned her gaze towards the rocky shoreline on the other side of the bay. Suddenly, her smile faded a little and she felt a shiver go up her back. Why couldn’t she shake that dream?
There was something about those rocks—
“So, tell me why you like torturing yourself like this.” Holly said, interrupting Bethany’s thoughts.
Bethany leaned back in the grass and thought for a moment. “Remember last January at the Big Surf?”
“I remember you were the only girl crazy enough to go out.”
“Well, I got caught by flat rock in a cleanup set. I was pinned to the bottom for the first wave, rolled around by the second, and finally broke surface for a breath after the third wave—”
I don’t surf the bay when it’s fifteen feet!”
“No, you don’t get it! What I’m saying is, I was a little freaked out—but not like I would’ve been if I hadn’t trained. If you
you can handle a couple of wave hold downs, then it isn’t as scary …” Bethany’s voice trailed off as she thought about the dream again, and she wondered if it meant that she needed to train harder — be better prepared.
She glanced over at Holly who was quiet for once, with a thoughtful look on her face as she studied the sky. Bethany wished Holly would say something—anything — to lighten the mood.
“I was just trying to figure out what’s worse,” Holly said finally, her grin reappearing. “Training with you or being wiped out by a massive wave.”
“I gotta get up and find something to drink,” Holly said with a laugh, then groaned as she slowly rose to her feet. “My body hates me, and we still have the car wash to do!”
“Let’s head into town. I’ll buy you a bottle of water for being such a good sport,” Bethany offered.
Holly arched a brow at her. “Good sport?”
“Okay … for running with me!” Bethany added. They both laughed.
“Ready to stagger to the store?” asked Holly.
“You stagger — I kinda feel like jogging.”
“Bethany, you are such a show-off!”
Bethany grinned, feeling her spirits rise. “Catch up, and I’ll let you in on an idea I have for the car wash!”