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Meet another Soul Surfer: Brittani Nicholl
©They might be continents apart, but shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton and Gold Coast surfer Brittani Nicholl (above) have two things in common; their friendship and a drive to overcome adversity. The girls, both 21, met at a World Qualifying Series surfing event when their coach Russell Lewis introduced them after months of telling one about the other.
“He was always telling me about Bethany and telling her about me and then one day we crossed paths and became good friends,” said Brittani.
“She’s definitely inspirational, strong-willed and someone people should aspire to be like.
“She’s a lovely person and very down-to-earth.
“Now whenever she comes over to Australia for an event we go for a surf, hang out at and do touristy things.”
Bethany became known around the world in 2003 when her arm was bitten off by a tiger shark while surfing off the coast of Hawaii. Despite losing over 60 per cent of her blood, the then 13-year-old recovered and learnt how to ride a surfboard again. Like Britanni, she now competes throughout the world as a professional surfer. Although she hasn’t had any encounters with sharks, Brittani too has an inspirational story. The Pottsville local suffers from Crohn's disease, an illness of the digestive system. She had to wear an ileostomy bag for several years after she haemorrhaged when 30cm of her bowel was removed in major surgery.
Despite her severe illness, Britanni still competed in surfing events even with her an ileostomy bag.
“They didn’t think I would be able to surf again with the bag, but I did; you just have to adjust to it,” she said.
“I used to have to surf in a full piece (swimsuit) to hold the bag in place.”
©In January last year she had reversal surgery and is now able to get on without a bag, despite living with constant symptoms. Brittani (above: in action) is the face of a new national television campaign for Crohn’s & Colitis Australia which aims to raise awareness of the debilitating and incurable bowel diseases that affects over 61,000 Australians.
“Surfing with Crohn’s has definitely affected me over the years,” she said.
“I remember a few years ago Bethany said to me that she thought I was so inspirational after she learnt about everything I’ve been through.
“I looked at her and said `seriously? Look what you’ve been through’ and she looked at me like I was crazy.
“We both look at things positively. Life can always be worse and we’re both just lucky to be here.”
Brittani is currently travelling to France to compete in a World Qualifying Series and looks forward to catching up and competing with Bethany over there. She said she “can’t wait” to talk to Bethany (below) aboutSoul Surfer, a film based on Bethany’s journey to return to the board after her attack.
“I saw it last week and I thought the film was amazing, I had tears in my eyes,” she said.
“It was pretty different knowing her as a person and seeing the actor act it out. It was her story, but with someone else telling it.
“But there was a scene when the real Bethany walked across the screen as an extra which was pretty funny.©Soul Surferis out in cinemas now.

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