Home > Interviews, Movie News > Bethany Hamilton, interview (Subject of the true film SOUL SURFER)

Bethany Hamilton, interview (Subject of the true film SOUL SURFER)

April 6th, 2011
On October 31, 2003, Hamilton went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai with friend Alana Blanchard, and Blanchard’s father and brother. Around 7:30 a.m., she was lying sideways on her surfboard with her left arm dangling in the water, when a 15 ft tiger shark attacked her, ripping her left arm off just below the shoulder. If the shark had bitten two inches further in, the attack would have been fatal. Hamilton had lost almost 60% of her blood that morning. Her friends helped paddle her back to shore, and fashioned a tourniquet out of a surfboard leash around what was left of her arm before rushing her to Wilcox Memorial Hospital… She then spent seven more days in recovery at the hospital.
Despite the trauma of the incident, Hamilton was determined to return to surfing. Less than one month after the incident, she returned to her board and went surfing again. Initially, she adopted a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker which made it easier to paddle. She has observed that she has to kick a lot more to make up for the loss of her left arm. After teaching herself to surf with one arm, she has again begun surfing competitively. She is now back to using competitive performance short-boards again.- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethany_Hamilton


On April 8, 2011 the film Soul Surfer, Bethany Hamilton’s true story gets released in movie theaters around the county.  I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Bethany recently in Tampa, Florida.  The following relates her responses to my questions.

John Delia: You were surfing at the age of 13 when a shark took your arm. Loosing an arm in the sport you love must have been a devastating tragedy. Anyone else would have probably quit. But you rose above the event and became a world champion surfer. What brought you to make the movie Soul Surfer?


Bethany Hamilton: First off it’s only a tragedy if you view it as a tragedy and forget that life can still be amazing.  For me it’s just been such an adventure living the life that I’ve had.  God has just blessed me with the ability to continue surfing.  I’m a pro surfer still to this day, having the book and movie made and being able to encourage other people to hear my story has turned into a beautiful thing.  And I wouldn’t call it a tragedy by any means.


As for making the film, we started off with the book and that was exciting.  The book led into the idea of making the movie.  My former manager Dutch Hofstetter had just been pitching it to a bunch of people.  He was so excited about it and just really wanted to tap it. His persistence finally led to meeting the right people.  The first person I remember meeting was Sean McNamara who is the director of the film.  He did an amazing job.  Basically they worked on finding financial support.  Just step-by-step slowly everything fell into place.  We started filming sometime last year for about two and a half months.  Then came the editing process and now the promo process.  It should be exciting the day it comes out.

John:  How does one come back from a tragedy like this?  Who was your support?


Bethany:  I guess my faith in Jesus Christ is what kept me going day by day.  I just trusted in him and I believe that he’s the one who gives me the strength and ability to overcome struggles and problems day to day. I’m just grateful for him, as he has blessed me with just an amazing family that has supported me through every step of the way.  We are a pretty tight family.  We all love surfing so we share the same passion.  I have very good friends as well that have made a huge impact on my life.


John:  Did you get a chance to choose your own cast?  Did you get to choose who would play you in Soul Surfer?


Bethany:  My mom and I had suggested Anna Sofia Robb who stars as me.  We had seen her in some movies prior to the auditions like The Bridge to Terabithia and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  We just really liked her and she ended up getting the part.  Once we met her in person I was just super stoked and she did a really good job.  We became really good friends through this process.


John:  Did Anna Sofia do any of the actual surfing in the film?


Bethany:  She may have a couple of clips but she’s from Colorado so not much ocean.  But she told me she loves surfing.  She was pretty good for the amount of time spent on film. She had only been surfing for like a month prior to filming.  You need like years and years to be able to surf extremely well. She was able to get up on the board and ride down the wave.

John:  I understand that you did your own stunts and surfing in the film.  Is that true?


Bethany: Most of the one armed surfing is myself. So you know the barrels?  You know when you go underneath the wave?  That was me and we filmed that in Tahiti so that was really fun to film.  It was an amazing trip.  I had actually been there before so it was my brother and my idea to go down there and get some footage for the movie. It definitely enhanced the film for sure and it’s an exciting part for people to see.



John: Soul Surfer has reached the screen and is about to be shown at theaters across the country.  You have seen it at the special screenings held for the press.  What do you think of the actual production?  Could the filmmakers have made a better film or is it a true representation of your life?


Bethany: I am very happy with how it turned out.  Most of the scenes are really true to our story.  It was exciting as my family and I got to help every step of the way from script writing to just being on the set and helping them make it more accurate.  Even I got to go into the editing room while editing, so it’s so cool to see it develop and it’s turned out so beautifully.  And I’m really happy on how it turned out.


John:  I feel that the film is an inspiration to others. Did it come across that way to you?


Bethany: I am definitely happy with just how the story is shown.  I think it does, don’t you?  I think for people especially that aren’t a part of my family; the film’s story is really good, because we are our biggest critics, but for the most part it is better than I envisioned it.  When you think Hollywood and true story those two combined don’t always work, but I think it worked this time. I am so stoked because I feel it can relate to every one of any age and lifestyle.

John:  What is your message to other people who may have felt that God had turned away from them?


Bethany: One thing I know that truth is that God loves us. He allows stuff to happen, he does. It’s like though he’s allowed the shark attack to happen look at all the other stuff he’s allowed to come with it.  As long as I’m trusting in him I am able to enjoy surfing and encourage other people to turn what seems like a bad thing into such a good thing.  I don’t know, it’s cool on how God works.  He works in mysterious ways and we may not always understand it but it’s just important to trust and love him.


John: Surfing that’s been your whole life, you’ve won a championship and you are right up there in the top 10 in the world.  What is that feeling when you come off the top of that wave and know that this ride is going to make you a winner?


Bethany:  Surfing is a huge passion of mine.  I’m and addict to it in a sense. I think it is a good addiction.  I spend about anywhere from two to eight hours a day in the water when I am home.  I enjoy competing and traveling.  I don’t know, I just like being in the ocean and enjoying God’s creation.  Just the adrenaline you get and its good exercise you get at the same time.  It has some challenging moments yet at the same time it is exciting to be a part of the sport.


John: One thing I noticed right away when we met for the first time that you are so tall.  How do you work the surfboard being so tall?


Bethany: Well depending on your height and size you can get surfboards to adjust to your own body. Height can be used to an advantage.  A lot of the world’s best surfers now are like over six feet tall.  Actually you can be short or tall and still surf well.

"Aloha Spirit"









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