If a shark bit off your arm, would you be happy to jump back in the ocean every morning?
That’s exactly what Bethany Hamilton did. At just 13, after a horrific shark attack, she chose to confront her fear to pursue her passion. If you’ve seen the movie, Soul Surfer, which tells her story, you’ll know a bit about how she turned her trauma into triumph
This year, she released a new documentary, Unstoppable, which shows how she grew from a teenage shark attack survivor to the wife and young mother she is today. As she explained in an interview with Alex, it was important to show people that there was more to her life than the incident she’s famous for.
Bethany has never stopped competing as a professional surfer, and revealed she has a special connection to Australia. ‘I have been coming here since I was 13 years old,’ she said, ‘and I think my most favourite thing about it is the coffee!’
When Soul Surfer was released 10 years ago, Bethany had no idea the far-reaching impact her story would have. ‘At first I was a bit conscious of being labelled as the shark-attack girl, and it was kind of an odd way to grow up.’
But she said her identity in Christ pulled her through, and helped her understand that her testimony was God’s tool. ‘It’s so easy in the world today to be distracted by things that seem important, but we all have the ability to overcome in God. We are all on a journey to becoming our most beautiful selves, and I just want to encourage everybody to live their best life.’
we all have the ability to overcome in God
Bethany wanted to make her new documentary as real and raw as possible. ‘I would be lying if I said that my life has been easy. I wanted to show people the ups and downs, not only of my surfing career, but of all aspects of my life. It’s a chance for people to get to know the real Bethany.’
Making the documentary at this stage of her life was important to Bethany. ‘I wanted to share a bit more of my story this time, and some of the highlights of the last 10 years. For me it really captures the journey from childhood all the way to motherhood.’
For Bethany, the biggest difference between the movie and the documentary is that there is “no Hollywood”, as she puts it. ‘There are no actors. It’s just me, my husband, and the reality of our family life. You get to see me experience the fear of motherhood, as well as trying to balance my professional surfing career with the demands of young children.’
The feedback for Unstoppable has been extremely positive, with young girls commenting that they much prefer the documentary form to the actual movie. A little boy that Bethany surfs with back home in Hawaii responded that he felt ‘fired up to chase his surfing dreams’ after watching it. This is exactly what Bethany and her family were hoping for.
‘I’m so thankful that God has used my story to inspire others, and I hope that everybody who sees the documentary is encouraged to live their own unstoppable lives!’
Listen to the full interview below.