Hamilton was born in Lihue, Hawaii. She took to surfing from an early age, winning her first championship when she was just 8 years old. On October 31st, 2003, Hamilton was surfing with a friend's family on a beach in Kauai when a tiger shark bit her left arm off. Hamilton's friend and her family managed to slow Hamilton's blood loss and got her to a hospital in time for surgeons to save her life. Despite the horrific injury, Hamilton was back on a surfboard a month later. The next year Hamilton published her memoir, Soul Surfer, which related the experience of the shark attack and how it affected Hamilton's philosophy about her life.Hamilton's memoir brought her into a wider realm of visibility, as she appeared on many talk shows and news programs to relate her incredible, inspirational story. ESPN honored her with their award for Comeback Athlete of the Year in 2004, and it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came knocking - the feature film adaptation of her memoir featured not just AnnaSophia Robb and Helen Hunt but also Dennis Quaid and Carrie Underwood. The exposure from that film provided Hamilton with an even greater platform from which to spread her inspirational story - and all the while, of course, she has continued to surf competitively.