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Surfer and shark-attack survivor Bethany Hamilton gives an autograph to a boy at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, on Thursday.

Surfer and shark-attack survivor Bethany Hamilton gives an autograph to a boy at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, on Thursday. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — Bethany Hamilton has a good reason to be afraid to go into the water.

She lost her arm and nearly her life at age 13 after a tiger shark attacked her off the shores of Kauai, Hawaii. But instead of clinging to the safety of land, she continues dive into the water and surf.

Bethany, now 15, continues to ride a wave of international attention from her story and is touring the world as a motivational speaker. She visited Spangdahlem Air Base on Thursday to talk to children about her experience and answer questions before touring other U.S. bases in Germany.

She said the reason people are inspired by her story is because she wasn’t afraid to return to the ocean and surf.

“To me, I just think I’ve been able to use all of this for so much good,” she said.

The teen plans to visit wounded soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center on Friday. She believes that she might be able to lift the spirits of some of the troops, especially those who might have lost a limb in war.

“I hope that they see that there’s so much more out there for them than mourning and being sad,” Bethany said.

Many thought Bethany would never be able to surf again after the 15-foot shark attacked her in October 2003. But she got back in the water and won fifth place at the National Surfing Championship in 2004.

Her story of courage and perseverance has led to interviews with the major networks and articles in dozens of newspapers and magazines. She now has a manager and has earned several product endorsements.

She doesn’t have a driver’s license yet but she has a new book, “Soul Surfer,” out in bookstores. She also has a new line of perfumes called “Stoked” and “Wired.”

At Spangdahlem, a crowd of children gathered around Kadin Woolever, 9, after he won a copy of Bethany’s book.

“I think it’s really cool she can still surf after that,” he said.

Bethany said she plans to attend college and study photography. She will never give up surfing.

“I’ve been surfing since I was 5 and I’ll be surfing until however long I can,” she said.

Bethany Hamilton's schedule: Friday: Ramstein Community Center, noon; Ramstein Youth Center, 4 p.m.; Saturday: Vogelweh Power- Zone, 12:30 p.m.; Sunday: Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, 7 p.m.


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