Cultural Conversations by Daniel Blackaby February 9, 2023
Famous Christian Surfer Bethany Hamilton Pushes Back Against World Surfing League’s New Transgender Policy
Bethany Hamilton is a living legend. She made a name for herself through her prowess on the surfboard, but she is perhaps most famous for her inspirational life story. In 2003, at the age of 13, Hamilton lost her left arm in a shark attack. As a devout Christian, Hamilton found strength in her steadfast faith and pushed herself to re-learn how to surf using only one arm. Miraculously, she was competing in major surfing competitions mere months after the incident. Her story has been told in many forms, including the 2011 film Soul Surfer.
Now 32, Hamilton continues to compete in the World Surfing League. Although, perhaps not for much longer. In an Instagram video, Hamilton spoke out against the league’s new transgender policy. She noted that while she “strives to have love for all of mankind,” as a professional athlete speaking on behalf of many other surfers (who were not consulted on the policy change and did not feel empowered to speak up), she said that she could not support the new policy. As a result, she would not be competing in the league while the new rule remained in place.
While many praised her for speaking up on the issue, she also received a wave of hateful comments on social media, with some users suggesting they were now on #TeamShark. In response, Hamilton released a follow-up video in which she doubled down on her position. She acknowledged the blowback but expressed that she refused to be swept up in it.
Transgenderism in competitive sports has become a hot-button issue, as various sports leagues struggle to balance inclusivity with competitive fairness. Interestingly, an article published by People notes, “Other WSL surfers supported Hamilton in the comments, while many other athletes and followers critiqued her belief.” It appears that those most impacted by the decision affirm Hamilton’s desire for open discussion and debate on the rule, while outsiders are quicker to settle the issue. As of now, the World Surf League has not issued a response. You can watch both of Hamilton’s Instagram videos below: