Feeling more confident about surfing among sharks than knowing she’d one day find true love was once reality for surfing champ Bethany Hamilton, 23. Fast forward 10 years after her shark attack accident — in which she lost her left arm and 60 percent of the blood in her body — and Bethany is now engaged to her prince charming, Adam Dirks, 25, a Christian youth minister.
Beaming at herself in an Anne Barge gown at In Touch's exclusive photo shoot on June 19, while trying on gowns at NYC’s Mark Ingram bridal shop, Bethany tells the mag, on newsstands now, “I feel like a princess!”
An inspiration to millions by telling her story in her book, Soul Surfer, Bethany reveals how she kept her faith and overcame her insecurities. “I always felt it would be hard for me to meet someone because I’m different,” she confides to the mag. “To say I was completely comfortable looking at myself in the mirror and seeing one arm would be a lie. I just had to trust in God and know that he had someone special for me.”
When pals set her up on a blind date with her now-fiancé Adam in May 2012, “We jumped off a cliff,” the Kauai, Hawaii, native recalls of the unconventional start of their romance. Eleven months later, Adam dropped to one knee on Bethany’s favorite beach. “I cried tears of joy,” she says. “Then I was in giggle mode the rest of the day!”
Bethany, who still competes professionally and is a spokeswoman for Zico coconut water, is happily planning her summer wedding — and choosing to focus on creating new memories instead of dwelling on the trauma of the past. “I’m living a fairy tale,” she gushes. “I feel loved … just as I am.”
For more from Bethany and all the photos inside her wedding dress shopping trip, pick up this week’s issue of In Touch, on newsstands now.