Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

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FIRST ON FOX: Two formidable female athletes are joining forces to share tales with children of the fight to defend opportunities for women in sports.

Former University of Kentucky swimming star Riley Gaines, an Outkick contributor, as well as professional surfer Bethany Hamilton are hosting a children’s story hour featuring their inspirational new titles from Brave Books at The Library Center in Springfield, Missouri, on Feb. 2.

“Together our message is stronger,” Gaines, host of Outkick’s “Gaines for Girls” podcast, told Fox News Digital. 

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“We’re drawing a clean line in the sand to show people where we stand,” she said.

The two watersports stars became high-profile champions of women’s sports after speaking up against the sudden incursion of biological men into female competitions. 

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Sports stars Riley Gaines (left) and Bethany Hamilton have become leaders in the fight to protect women’s sports from the incursion of male competitors. (Courtesy Brave Books)

But they’ve faced a tidal wave of hate and intolerance, plus career hardships, in response to their efforts to preserve opportunities for women in sports that were denied to those of past generations.

“People have wished death upon my life,” Hamilton told Fox News Digital in a phone interview from the remote Hawaiian island of Kauai. 

“People have wished death upon my life. It makes you sad that society can be so gnarly.” — Bethany Hamilton

“It makes you sad that society can be so gnarly,” she added.

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Hamilton earned acclaim as one of the world’s most successful surfers, despite losing her left arm during a shark attack in 2003 when she was just 13 years old.

Now she’s earned the ire of cancel culture after she gave up her career in Feb. 2023 to protest the World Surf League’s decision to allow men to compete in women’s competitions.

Legendary surfer Bethany Hamilton wrote the children’s title “Surfing Past Fear,” published by Brave Books. Hamilton became one of America’s most famous surfers despite losing her left arm in a shark attack at age 13.  (Courtesy Brave Books)

“Men’s and women’s bodies are created differently, and we have different strengths and weaknesses no matter how hard we try,” said Hamilton, who recently welcomed her fourth child.

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“It’s not fair and I can’t support it,” she said of men competing in women’s sports competitions. “I need to stand up for the next generation of girls pushing surfing forward. I want the best for them.”

She’s lost sponsors, is facing a boycott over a speaking engagement in Wisconsin next month and has suffered ruthless personal attacks, with several people shamelessly alluding to the loss of her arm. 

SURFER BETHANY HAMILTON OF HAWAII PUSHES PAST FEAR, TAKES ON NEW ADVENTURE

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“Damn u sure u got two legs to stand on for this?” reads one acidic attack posted on her Instagram page.

“Nice that they let you compete despite your intellectual disability,” posted another follower.

Gaines, a 12-time NCAA All-American swimmer, became an outspoken champion for women in sports after she was forced to compete against, and to share a locker room with, male swimmer Lia Thomas in 2022.

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Riley Gaines, an Outkick contributor and former University of Kentucky swimming star, is the author of the new children’s title “Happy No Snakes Day” from publisher Brave Books. (Courtesy Brave Books)

They share their lessons of determination in the face of adversity in new children’s titles from Brave Books.

Gaines wrote the book “Happy No Snakes Day,” in which squirrels face a moral dilemma when threatened by snakes. 

It offers children a lesson in standing up for truth no matter the consequences.

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“Surfing Past Fear” is Hamilton’s tale of an otter named Olivia who breaks her arm yet overcomes her anxieties with the help of friends and returns to surfing. 

It’s based on Hamilton’s own remarkable real-life story of overcoming the loss of her arm as a teenage surfing prodigy. 

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“Together we can teach future generations to stand up for themselves and to stand up for what’s right.”

“I was pretty hard to beat” as a teenager, the soft-spoken Hamilton said. 

In addition to overcoming the physical and mental trauma, she had to learn new ways to swim, paddle and balance on the board. 

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“I was winning again a year or two after I lost my arm,” she said, while becoming one of the most successful surfers in history, a multimedia star and now the mother of four children.

Gaines and Hamilton will meet for the first time in person at the story hour in Missouri. But it turns out they inspired each other even as strangers.

Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, left, an Outkick contributor, plus pro surfer Bethany Hamilton are fighting to preserve opportunities for women in sports and have written inspirational children’s books. They’re hosting a Brave Books story hour on Feb. 2, 2024 in Springfield, Missouri. (Courtesy Brave Books)

“I’ve known about the Bethany mythology for a long time,” said Gaines, adding that she was in fifth grade when she saw Hamilton’s 2011 feature film “Soul Surfer” in the theater.

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“We thought it was the coolest thing,” added Gaines.

Gaines was already an outspoken leader focused on preserving opportunities for women in sports when Hamilton made her decision to leave surfing.

The women hope their new partnership can inspire boys and girls to strive for success in sports, but also in faith and life.

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“Together we can teach future generations to stand up for themselves and to stand up for what’s right,” said Gaines. “To stand up for the truth.” 

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Ahead of the Feb. 2 event, Brave Books confirmed to Fox News Digital its booking of rooms at the Missouri library, including an extra waiting room for attendees. 

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Fox News Digital reached out to The Library Center for additional comment.

The new children’s book by Gaines is out on Jan. 25, 2024 from Brave Books.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

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