Surfer Bethany Hamilton Proves to be ‘Unstoppable’ in New Documentary
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Professional Christian surfer Bethany Hamilton, who survived a horrific shark attack that took her left arm as a teenager, has recently launched a documentary that updates viewers on her life since that fateful day in 2003.
Unstoppable picks up where the 2011 hit movie Soul Surfer leaves off, taking audiences on the journey of a young woman relentless in her pursuit to become one of the leading professional surfers in world.*
Now available on many digital venues including iTunes, Amazon, and Christian Cinema, Unstoppable is an inspiring portrait of a young woman’s heroic story of bravery, perseverance, and hope.
I recently spoke to Bethany about the new film, whether she had any reservations about making such a public declaration of her life, and how her faith has sustained her through good times and bad.
It seems that all you have ever wanted to do your entire life is to surf. The fact that you grew up in Hawaii made your passions quite easy to pursue. But what if you had grown up in a place like Indiana? Do you think your life will have turned out differently?
Oh, of course it would. I think I still would have had some sort of athletic approach to life. But I did grow up in Hawaii. My parents moved to Hawaii in the 1970s to surf, and they said their greatest love was to be with their kids, surfing, and God. And so, growing up that is what my life revolved around.
The name of your new documentary is Unstoppable. Your movie, Soul Surfer came out in 2011. Why the desire to make this film after the success of a movie that told your story pretty well and was a hit at the box office?
I was really happy with how Soul Surfer turned out and it wasn't like I actually set out to make this documentary. When we started, we had planned to actually make a short film that was 12 minutes long and highlighted my surfing and performance surfing. It just kind of went from that to being an action piece. As we started making the film, we realized that Soul Surfer stopped at the age of 16. A lot has happened in my life since then. It’s funny because people always ask me if I still surf. I'm actually one of the best female surfers in the world. So, we set out to kind of share that. To make a long story short, that short film turned into a documentary. On top of that, this is the real me, not an actor. Unstoppable allows people to get to know me. I'm really happy with how it turned out and it’s been really cool to hear all the feedback so far from people who've seen it.
To put your life out there for all to see is a highly personal decision, one that can make you quite vulnerable. Did you have any reservation in allowing this film to be made?
The cool thing was we had a really small crew making Unstoppable. It was essentially my husband, myself, and our director, producer and assorted labor. We were really a tight-knit core for the five years of filming. We had a rule that whatever we filmed; I don't have to put it in the film. It was up to me. At the end of the day, we are making money on my behalf and I have full control. That gave me a sense of peace and a sense of everything is going to be all right. If we filmed some stuff that we didn’t want to share, we didn’t. I think there's so much beauty in sharing your life with other people through storytelling and it definitely placed me in a position of being able to encourage and inspire people through my journey of overcoming in life. This was a great opportunity for me to continue in that role of encouraging others that they can overcome the hardest things in life.
The name of the film is Unstoppable. Is this a title or moniker that suits you?
It was funny, right when we were trying to come up with the name of the documentary it felt hard. Then our director suggested the title, but I didn't know if I could live up to that. In the Christian faith, the way I view it is that through Christ I am unstoppable. It is Christ who has saved me and made me whole and new again. And even though life definitely has its ups and downs, I always have God's Word and promises to lean toward. That makes me unstoppable and can make all of us unstoppable. It’s a confident and lighthearted move forward in life and knowing we’ve got this.
Why do you want to push of the boundaries of possibility with your surfing? How has this carried over into your everyday life?
Surfing has taught me so much about discipline, hard work, and just staying focused. It's taught me to say no to things that pulled me away from my goals and dreams. I’ve learned so much through the sport and I think a lot of professional athletes benefit from working hard in their sport. That can then carry over into other areas of your life. Now, being a wife and mom, just finding the balance in it all is so important. To be a professional surfer you need to be consistently working hard and consistently pushing yourself to be better. As a mom, consistency is so key. It just overflows with my natural approach to life. That is just being a consistent mom and my being there for my boys on a daily basis, communicating well to them, encouraging them and lifting them up.
You mention in the film how you wondered what you could have accomplished in surfing if you hadn’t lost your arm. I’m sure you have had to be careful to not let that feeling overtake you through the years. What have you done to fight off this feeling?
You know, the only time I really think about it is when other people bring it up. I feel like I have accomplished so much and I’m very thankful for all my abilities and the things that I can do. It really didn't bug me, cause me to worry or feel discouraged. For all of us, you can't just dwell on the what ifs. I just moved forward and asked what can I do from here? What's next?
You've mentioned several times today in our chat about your faith in God. You have been in the public eye for more than 15 years now and I'm sure during that time in your faith journey, you've learned a whole lot about yourself. With that said, what's God been teaching you over the last few years?
I feel like I’m at a beautiful time in my life. I’m embracing marriage and raising children with my husband. It’s been great to see the forgiveness of God carry over in my relationships. God’s grace is sufficient for me. That grace has carried over into those relationships. I haven't felt like I've been in a season of pain or trouble. But in this world, you will have pain but take heart, God has overcome the world. That’s from John 16 and I love that verse. I've been talking about that with my son. It’s just that different subjects are coming up and just knowing that makes me thankful. You never know when trouble is around the corner. The truth is the world's imperfect and there is sin and evil. We just have to deal with the fact that it is part of life. But that's why we can always rely on Christ to overcome whatever it is that comes our way.
A final question for you. After people have seen Unstoppable, what would you like to see audiences get out of the film? What is your greatest hope for it?
My greatest hope is that people would be inspired in their own journeys to live unstoppable and to be overcomers. I would love for people to know that God has a deep love for them and embracing of who they are. There are so many takeaways that everyone will kind of hear what they want to hear but I'm just excited to share my life with people.
Watch a Trailer for Bethany Hamilton's Unstoppable:
* text courtesy of BethanyHamilton.com.
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