Made famous by the movie Soul Surfer, Bethany Hamilton was born in 1990 and is an American writer and professional surfer. Despite a shark attack at age 13, in which her left arm was bitten off, Hamilton was resolute in her beliefs of being a surfer and returned to the water within a month, even after losing 60% of her blood. As she writes, she has “been stable in [her] mind and beliefs” even after being physically disabled and was confident that God had loved her and wanted her to continue with professional surfing.
In 2004, Hamilton entered competitions, driven by her love and passion for surfing. She has placed in several international and national competitions such as placing first in the NSSA National Competition (2005) and O'Neill Island Girl Junior Pro tournament, and second in the ASP World Junior Championship in Australia (2018). She also wrote an autobiography in 2004 at just 14, titled Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, which was later turned into a film.
Hamilton was also the subject of Unstoppable, a 2018 documentary that describes marriage and motherhood and their influence on surfing. At just 21, Hamilton continues to compete as a surfer, no longer needing a custom-made board that was tailored to her needs as a physically disabled person. She also engages in numerous speaking events to empower young people who are uncertain of their dreams and identities.
Jessica Long was born in 1992 in Baltimore Maryland, and she is “one of America’s most decorated athletes of all-time, a speaker, author, advocate, and sports personality.” Born with fibular hemimelia, a birth defect where the fibular bones are absent and associated limbs have deformities, she underwent lower-leg amputations before the age of two. Still, she adjusted to using prostheses and began participating in the Paralympic Games as a disabled swimmer at twelve.
Long has since won 16 gold medals (29 medals in total), over 50 world-championship medals, and has set more than a dozen world records. Having competed in South Africa, Beijing, and London, she has since been named a U.S. Paralympic Sportswoman of the Year in 2012, three-time Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award Winner, and James E. Sullivan Award in 2006. Despite being disabled, she has shown “unrelenting determination and belief in herself,” becoming one of America’s “most decorated female champions.”
Aside from swimming, Long focuses on spreading inspiration to others outside the pool. She is a disability advocate who provides unique perspectives to “corporate leaders, sports teams, and faith-based organizations.” She is an activist for women’s leadership, disability in the workplace, growth mindset, and turning pain into power.