"I just do my best to be smart about when and where I surf," she said. "I don't go out if it's questionable. And when I'm out, I head in if I get scared or think I see a shark."
Over time, Hamilton became comfortable with her physical disability. Early on, she had a prosthetic arm custom made for her but chose not to use it.
"Living in Kauai, everybody knows who I am, and it's not really going to make me more confident having a real arm and a fake arm," she said.
"It's not that I don't like it, but it doesn't really come in handy, because living in Hawaii, I'm running around and it's not like it's waterproof. And it doesn't help me paddle any faster."
Hamilton travels the world for surfing competitions but also for causes she believes in. She went to Thailand with an organization called World Vision to help young children who'd been devastated by the tsunami disaster. Drawing on her own experience, she helped them overcome their fear of the ocean.
Spending countless hours in the ocean, Hamilton has brought her love of the environment to her career. She runs a thriving business that includes inspirational speaking engagements, movies, books, videos, fragrances, accessories and a line of environmentally-friendly footwear.
With each product, she includes an encouraging message about environmental awareness, such as taking care of local beaches by picking up the trash. It is her hope to inspire new generations with her company slogan: "Be Ocean Minded!" That's not the only message she hopes to pass on.
"There's little kids, and they have dreams, and I think they should go for it," she said. "Not let the world tell them what they can and cannot do and really just set their mind to it and have fun with it."
For more information on Bethany Hamilton, visit her website, www.bethanyhamilton.com.