Chasing Waves and Courage in Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

A documentary film about a disabled female athlete who builds courage within herself and seeks faith.

Bonnie Mukherjee
Bonnie Mukherjee
March 6, 2022
5 / 5
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5 / 5
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A documentary film about a disabled female athlete who builds courage within herself and seeks faith.

Bethany Hamilton shares her story in this 2019 documentary film directed by Aaron Lieber. She stars as herself as she takes the viewers on her journey through surfing ocean waves. She lost her left arm in a 2003 shark attack when she was only 13. Still, she was able to get back up on her feet after a period of recovery and, with determination to return to surfing, build and find the courage within herself.

This article will discuss how Bethany Hamilton deals with her life as a disabled female athlete and how she became an inspirational role model to children and adults alike.

Getting Back on Board

This image is of Bethany Hamilton

Bethany Hamilton during one of her interviews.

For one, surfing is all about courage. Bethany Hamilton was born and raised by a family of surfers; her parents and two older brothers were also surfers like her. She started entering surf competitions at a young age, as early as 8, knowing that she always dreamed of becoming a professional surfer. When she got attacked by a shark and lost her arm, she prayed to God to keep her safe and alive. She had several surgeries following the shark attack, but the loss of her arm couldn't stop her. In a few weeks, Bethany Hamilton was back on her board.

She wrote about her experiences in her 2004 autobiography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, which inspired the movie Soul Surfer. In several printed media outlets, like newspaper articles, Bethany Hamilton is described by most people as "disabled," "shark attack victim," and "shark attack survivor;" all of these nicknames centered around the loss of her arm, her shark attack survival, and recovery. Still, she continues to break boundaries and become a champion.

Real People

This image is of Tyler Wright

Tyler Wright, a professional surfer

This documentary film includes several friends and family members of Bethany Hamilton who have witnessed the shark attack, her recovery, and her progress on becoming a surfing champion. Professional surfers like Coco Ho, Tyler Wright, and Kelly Slater have seen Bethany adapt her life around her physical disability in surfing and other aspects of life. In addition, her parents Tom and Cheri Hamilton have continued to support her surfing career and success.

Bethany Hamilton's life continues to change when she gets married to youth minister Adam Dirks and enters motherhood. She shares with the viewers how exciting it is for her to become a mother and face all of the challenges of raising kids. On June 1, 2015, their first child and son, Tobias, was born.

As stated in this documentary, Bethany uses her feet to help her with her daily routines, such as changing a baby's diaper. She also does physical workouts while she's not surfing to help strengthen her muscles, especially her right arm. She passes her gift of surfing onto Tobias by teaching him how to surf.

The documentary film unpacks all aspects of Bethany Hamilton's life to the viewers, from her childhood, to the day of the shark attack, to her recovery, to getting back on board, and finally, the challenges of motherhood, all while dealing with her physical disability.