MAY 14, 2010: Hawaiian surfer Bethany Hamilton poses with her Psalm 142 inscribed, hand-strap modified surfboard in Soorts-Hossegor, western France, while competing in the Swatch Girls pro competition, a stage of the surf world qualifying series.
(Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP/Getty Images)
As a biopic on her shark attack recovery screens worldwide, Bethany Hamilton
insists on giving credit where it is due
The heroin of Soul Surfer, a new film starring Anna-Sophia Robb, Dennis Quaid
and Helen Hunt that opens on June 2, shark-attack survivor and professional
surfer Bethany Hamilton decided eight years ago she would accept the limelight
to help others find their feet.
“I don’t care to be famous,” Bethany told The Observer in
2009. “But at the same time you look at all the role models little girls
have and they don’t have anyone to look up to. I mean it’s weird,
but if I just hid out and didn’t let myself be known who would they look
up to instead?”
Bethany is certainly someone to admire. After a 15 foot tiger shark bit off
her left arm in 2003, causing her to lose 60% of her blood, it would have been
understandable for the then 13 year old who had already attracted a big
sponsor to have sunk into a deep depression. Instead, Bethany chose to see God
in the circumstance and has used the experience to tell people what He has
done for her.
As a five year old, Bethany says she made a decision to surrender her life to
Jesus Christ, to trust in His sacrifice for her sin and follow Him for the
rest of her life. As young as she was, she committed to never hide her faith
or stop talking about it.
“I really believe God was in this whole thing,” Bethany said a
year after the attack. If I didn’t have one arm, I wouldn’t be
sharing God’s Word with everyone. God put me on this earth to serve Him,
and I know that having one arm is the way He uses me! I’m so thankful
that I’m still able to surf and do everything I love.
“Jesus means everything to me. He created me. He gave me life, and
He’s the One who loves us no matter what. I want to tell people about
the truth of God’s Word, and I never want to hide God.”
A month after losing her arm, Bethany was back on the board, and returned to
amateur competition within two months. Eighteen months later, she took
women’s gold at the NSSA National Surfing Championship and won the
O’Neill Island Girl Pro Junior. In 2008, she came in third at the Roxy
Pro in Australia.
“I’m feeling so blessed right now,” she said after the
event. “I want to start off by giving Jesus all the glory because He is
the reason I can surf and make it mentally through every day. I’m stoked
with these results and my goal is to win the whole event so I’m just
going to do my best.”
By the end of 2008, Bethany was 14th in the world on the Pro Qualifying Series
rankings. She came in fifth at the US Surfing Open in California. She then
achieved second place at the 2009 World Junior (under 20) Championships in
Sydney and third at the Rio Surf International. These results propelled her
into the world top 12.
Between surfing and media interviews, Bethany wrote two books on her
experiences and relationship with God, ‘Soul Surfer’ (which sold
1.5 million copies) and ‘Devotions for the Soul Surfer’, and a
personal documentary called ‘Heart of a Soul Surfer’. They would
become the inspiration for the big-budget film.
When asked about the fact that the movie is unashamedly Christian, Bethany
says, “I’m sharing my story as it is and I want people to see the
truth of it without it being watered down or changed.”
MARCH 30, 2011: Bethany Hamilton at the premiere of ‘Soul Surfer’ in Hollywood, California.
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Bethany says she is stoked that Anna-Sophia Robb plays her in the movie.
“I never thought that I would find someone to play me that would do the
role justice. I had such high expectations.” (Even so, Bethany was the
one performing the surfing stunts.)
Having an hour and half movie made about her life is something that she is
still trying to come to grips with.
“I never thought a movie would be made about me,” Bethany says.
“But it’s happening and it’s real.”
It is also a great platform to share her love for God.
“I’m excited to share how much God loves each
one of us and how He has touched everything I’ve done. The film shows
the struggles with faith and learning how to surf again — there are so
many aspects of the film that will be exciting for people to
However long the limelight remains, Bethany says she just wants to keep
“From the beginning my main reason to continue surfing was because I
love it and it’s something I wanted to try and do again. That’s
how it started. I’m a professional surfer to this day and along with
being a surfer comes being a good light to people and encouraging people who
are going through hard times to just press on through whatever they are
At present, Bethany competes six months of the year on the ASP World Tour.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be competing,” she says,
“but I’ll always be surfing. I’ll be surfing until I’m
Soul Surfer opens nationally on June 2. More info: www.BethanyHamilton.com,