Bethany Hamilton Opens Up About Surfing, Motherhood and Her 'Raw, Real' New Documentary Unstoppable
A lot has changed for Bethany Hamilton since the last time her story was told on the big screen in 2011’s Soul Surfer — but fortunately for her fans, an upcoming documentary is filling in the pieces while reexamining her incredible past.
The film, Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable, explores the horrific 2003 shark attack that claimed her left arm, as well as the untold story of Hamilton’s resilience in not only getting back on the board, but becoming one of leading professional surfers of all time. In addition to covering her life as a wife and mother, the documentary details Hamilton’s amazing victory over a six-time world champ and the top-ranked surfer in the world in 2016.
“I’m super excited, it’s coming together amazingly,” Hamilton tells PEOPLE of the film. “We’ve been working on it for the last three or four years, and it’s a raw, real version of my life story, highlighting my surfing career and all the different obstacles that I’ve overcome. I think Soul Surfer did an amazing job but I think this will be a very different version and it’s actually me.”
While she enjoyed the dramatized version of her story in Soul Surfer, starring AnnaSophia Robb as Hamilton and Helen Hunt as her mom, Hamilton says the documentary “will be a really cool way for people to see a deeper look at my life and the journey I’ve been through, especially the success I’ve had as a professional surfer, and as a mom and in life — and doing it all at the same time.”
The pro surfer, who had her first child, Tobias, with husband Adam Dirks last year, also opened up about how having a family has affected her career. “I’ve always been competitive with myself and I’ve always tried to be the best I can be, but getting married and having a son has completely changed things.”
She added, “I’ve had such incredible support from my husband and my son.” While she acknowledged that Tobias, who is 1 ½ years old, is “more just along for the ride,” she said her “husband is super supportive.” With his “athletic background,” Hamilton added, “he really gets it, in terms of how hard I work, and he makes that possible by cheering me on.”
For example, Hamilton said, “When we were in Fuji [for a competition] last year, there were a lot of nerves inside of me. I hadn’t been competing as much and all of a sudden I’m going up against the No. 1 in the world in my first heat. So just having my husband there to cheer me on and help me stay calm and confident and keep the game face on was really essential. So it’s a combination of the support system and that personal drive. It’s been a fun journey.”
The process of filming the documentary has also been a source of support for Hamilton. While the film received an outpouring of support for its Kickstarter campaign, Hamilton admitted she was “so nervous” and “didn’t know what to expect” at first. “It’s pretty cool to see that people still want to hear my story and support me in my journey. I hope people are stoked with how we’ve prepared everything.”
Overall, Hamilton hopes the film will give people a new perspective on her life. “A lot of people see me as Soul Surfer or that shark-attack victim, so this is kind of creating a new view for people to see, and hopefully they will be encouraged in their own journeys.”