The professional surfer, 28, is the subject of Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable, a new documentary premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival that follows Hamilton’s storied surf career as well as her journey to motherhood after marrying husband Adam Dirks in August 2013.
Though the two had planned on becoming parents, Hamilton found out she was pregnant with her first son Tobias in 2015 earlier than they had expected.
“Becoming a mom is something I always knew was going to be an amazing part of my life, or at least I hoped that, but it just came so much sooner than I had anticipated,” she tells PEOPLE. “It was a hard time in my life, just embracing motherhood. I think a lot of women struggle with it, so I thought it was really important to share the truth of that. I had a lot of fears entering into motherhood, I didn’t know what life would look like after. And I think a lot of women deal with that. I hope that it can encourage a lot of women because it is such a special gift and I’m so glad it’s my life now.”
Hamilton continued to compete after Tobias was born and is now looking forward to getting back on her board almost 6 weeks after welcoming his little brother Wesley in March 2018. Her drive is what makes the title of the documentary fitting.
“I don’t feel like I’m unstoppable, but a lot of aspects of my life maybe look that way,” she admits. “And even if we stumble or fall or move on from different challenges or things we’re trying to accomplish in our life, just to live in an unstoppable way is a message I hope to portray.”
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The film also touches on the harrowing shark attack that changed Hamilton’s life. When she was just 13, Hamilton was surfing in Kauai, Hawaii when a 14-foot tiger shark bit off her left arm and she was rushed to the hospital. After the attack, there was only one thing Hamilton wanted — to get back on her surfboard. Through a brief recap of the ordeal in the film, you get a glimpse at the intensity of the media storm that surrounded the young surfer after she became a household name — and the troubles that came with it.
“I’ve grown to understand it and deal with it a little better, but even to this day it feels so challenging,” Hamilton says of the attention she gets. “As a 13-year-old growing up in just a small island here in Hawaii, being flooded with that was pretty overwhelming and really hard for me to deal with. I just wanted to be a normal teenager out surfing and being with my friends. I have a lot of compassion for people that have a lot of spotlight on their life.”
Hamilton continues: “Just being able to share my life in this way is really exciting to me because my story’s been told a lot, but a lot of aspects of my life that have been really challenging or triumphant haven’t been told,” she says. “I mean I loved Soul Surfer, but this is the real me. I think it’s gonna be really cool for all the young women and young guys out there to see and hopefully be inspired in their own journeys.”
Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday.