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Shark victim: 'I shouldn't get special treatment'

Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton

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Bethany Hamilton competes first surfing tournament since losing her left arm in a shark attack (no audio).
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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Teen surfer Bethany Hamilton returned to competition Saturday, just 10 weeks after losing her left arm in a shark attack.

Hamilton, 13, placed fifth in her age group in the Open Women Division of a National Scholastic Surfing Association meet at Banyans, Hawaii.

CNN's Anderson Cooper discussed the achievement with Hamilton on Tuesday:

COOPER: Congratulations on doing fifth. How do you feel about how you did?

HAMILTON: I was definitely stoked, because my original goal was not to get last in my first heat. And actually, I just kept on making it all the way to the final, so I was really happy.

COOPER: What's different, I mean, surfing now compared to the way you were surfing before?

HAMILTON: Paddling is a lot harder, because you have half as much speed as before. And then taking off is probably the hardest thing after the incident. And I am definitely going to need some work on that.

COOPER: Taking off, you mean getting up on the board once you're on a wave?

HAMILTON: Yeah. You paddle into the wave, the first part of the wave when you stand up.

COOPER: Is it the balance that's kind of tough to figure out?

HAMILTON: Well, usually both hands are on each side of the rail, and then -- but now I have to -- if my hand is not in the exact middle of the board, then I fall to the side because I off-balance myself.

COOPER: The people who were running the contest said they were willing to kind of put you in a special category, give you some breaks. But you told them no, you wanted to be treated just like everybody else. Why?

HAMILTON: Well, OK. This is what happened.

There were two divisions. I finished the first division. And then right when I came in, I had to go back out. They said, "Oh, we can change it so you have, like, a half-hour break."

And I just felt that I just shouldn't get any special treatment, because I'd rather just be normal and just go out and do my best.

COOPER: What's it like for you? You're now a big celebrity. People know your name. You're an inspiration to millions of people out there. I know there was an inner-faith Web site that named you one of the, I think, the 10 most inspirational people of this past year.

What is that like for you?

HAMILTON: I guess it's exciting.

COOPER: Does it feel weird to have so much attention?

HAMILTON: Yeah. I'm not used to people walking up to me, and then they're, like, "Oh, hi, you're that girl on TV."

Yeah, I was like, "Oh, yeah."

They're like, "Can I have your autograph?"

I'm like, "Oh, I hate autographs."

But I just did it anyway.

COOPER: Well, that's cool. That's nice of you to take the time to do it.

I guess a lot of people ask the question, did you feel nervous at all getting back in the water? I mean, as you get in the water now, is it just like being a fish, getting back in the water, or do you think about sharks?

Do you think about what might happen?

HAMILTON: Oh, sharks, like, they always come up in my mind now. But I try not to think about it. I just want to have -- mostly have fun with all my friends and stuff.

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