Bethany Hamilton, surfing champion, defies woke tide in fight for single-sex women’s sports

Bethany Hamilton, surfing champion, defies woke tide in fight for single-sex women’s sports

Say this for Bethany Hamilton, she isn’t one to steer clear of choppy waters.


She became a champion surfer despite losing her left arm in a 2003 shark attack when she was 13. Now the Hawaii born-and-bred athlete is paddling against the woke current by advocating to keep biological males out of girls’ and women’s sports.

The 33-year-old Hamilton made a splash last weekend by reading her children’s book published in November, “Surfing Past Fear,” at a Brave Books library story hour in Springfield, Missouri, alongside All-American swimmer Riley Gaines.

“It takes so much courage for female athletes to stand up for what’s right in their sports,” Hamilton told The Washington Times in a statement after the reading.

The event drew hundreds of parents and children as well as a group of protesters, including one who wore a pink-and-blue transgender flag and carried a stuffed-animal shark.

An outraged Gaines asked on X: “How messed up is this? This protester brought a shark stuffed animal to mock Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm to a shark.”

Hamilton credited Gaines, who has become the face of the women’s single-sex sports movement, with inspiring her. In addition to being top athletes, both are outspoken Christians.

“It is rad to see Riley grinding daily to encourage women to speak up and it’s making a difference,” Hamilton said. “I’m glad I spoke up, and no matter the risk, it was worth it to know I was speaking the truth. Male bodied athletes must be kept out of women’s sports and we need more women to say it.”

Hamilton jumped into the deep end in February 2023 by challenging the World Surf League’s updated transgender policy, which allows male-born surfers who identify as female to enter women’s events if they keep their testosterone below 5 nmol/L for at least 12 months before competition.

She had competed in the league for 15 years, but said on Instagram that “I personally won’t be competing in or supporting the World Surf League if this rule remains,” asking whether an athlete’s body is “simply a hormone level.”

“Am I just a hormone number? Is it as simple as that?” she asked. “I’m not going to go into a bunch of questions, but from what I know, this is not supported by the majority of the women currently competing on the tour.”

The league said that its policy mirrors that of the International Surfing Association, the global governing body, which sets the eligibility rules for participation in the Olympics.

Her stance prompted critics to accuse her of “bigotry” and being “openly transphobic.”

She parted ways with her longtime sponsor, sportswear company Rip Curl, after 24 years — Gaines said Hamilton was dropped.

But then Rip Curl was hit with a backlash of its own.

In January, the Australia-based company featured male-to-female transgender surfer Sasha Lowerson as part of an ad campaign that lauded the “West Australia waterwoman.”

Hamilton weighed in with a Jan. 29 post on X: “Male-bodied athletes should not be competing in female sports. Period.”


The hashtag #boycottripcurl surged, prompting comparisons to the Bud Light debacle over its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

The company reversed course, removing the Lowerson ad and posting a Feb. 1 statement on Instagram saying that the episode “has landed us in the divisive space around transgender participation in competitive sport.”

“We want to promote surfing for everyone in a respectful way but recognize we upset a lot of people with our post and for that, we are sorry,” said Rip Curl. “To clarify, the surfer featured has not replaced anyone on the Rip Curl team and is not a sponsored athlete.”

Another brouhaha is taking shape in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where Hamilton is scheduled to deliver the May 9 keynote address at the 2023 Power of the Purse fundraiser sponsored by the Women’s Fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

More than 70 “members and allies of Oshkosh’s LGBTQ+ community” signed a letter urging the Women’s Fund to “remove and replace” Hamilton as the keynote speaker.

“We are writing to you today to repeat our requests that your organizations stop promoting and providing a platform to this or any other trans-exclusionary public figure, and also to request a public and sincere apology to the LGBTQ+ community for this harmful mistake,” said the Jan. 15 letter.

So far the Women’s Fund is standing by Hamilton, saying that her story of “overcoming obstacles and living with resilience, perseverance, and heart has helped her live an Unstoppable life.”

The Springfield reading was Hamilton’s first foray on the Brave Books library tour, which brings in authors like Christian actor Kirk Cameron for children’s readings at public libraries in response to the proliferation of drag queen story hours.

Hamilton and Gaines, who featured her newly published children’s work “Happy No Snakes Day,” held two readings to accommodate the crowd that lined up around the library building.

They were joined by Valentina Gomez, candidate for the GOP nomination for Missouri Secretary of State and a former Division I collegiate swimmer, and current Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who’s running for the Republican nomination for governor.

Gaines also presented Hamilton with the Riley Gaines Center 2023 True Woman of the Year Award.

“It was so fun to be able to present this award to Bethany in person,” said Gaines in a statement. “She hasn’t gotten enough credit for the risk she took in speaking out last year about the World Surf League’s transgender policies. I admire her courage and can’t wait to keep building an army of truth with women like her in the fight!”

Gaines also said that the protesters “did nothing to stop hundreds of families and young girls from taking in messages of truth and faith at our BRAVE Books story hour.”

Hamilton, who gave birth to her fourth child in July, said she was honored to receive the award and “thankful for the parents and grandparents who are raising their children to be the salt and light in their communities.”

“It was a true blessing to meet everyone who came to the event and to share a message of courage with them,” she said.

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