Bethany Hamilton: The Real Soul Surfer
By: Lynn Barker
Kidzworld chatted with AnnaSophia Robb who plays Bethany Hamilton in Soul Surfer but we wanted to get the story from the real Bethany who is now in her early 20’s. We noted that she is way taller than AnnaSophia, about 5’10” to the actress’s 5’2”-ish. Movie cameras made the two “match” as Bethany performed a lot of her own stunts in the film.
All glammed up for our interview in Beverly Hills near UCLA, Bethany doesn’t wear a “fake” arm and has no problem with it. Neither do we. She is awesome! What an inspiring girl. Check it out!
Kidzworld: Bethany, according to the press kit, you said that you think sharks are beautiful. Even after what happened to you, do you still think they’re beautiful?
- Bethany Hamilton: Yeah, definitely. They’re such a special creature. They’re not always vicious and scary like they’re played off to be. Over the years I’ve noticed a few things; in certain parts of the world where they just catch sharks, cut their fins off, and then throw them in the ocean, and that’s really sad. Shark attacks aren’t that common. They’re just a beautiful creature. We’re going into their home and we’re invading their privacy.
Kidzworld: He thought you were a seal, I imagine.
- Bethany: Maybe, yeah. You never know.
Kidzworld: After this incident I would have been terrified to go back into the ocean. I remember when the news report came out; you never seemed to have any fear about going back into the ocean. Why do you think that is?
- Bethany: Fear is something that can really hold us all back from different things in life. It’s important to notice what your fears are and try to conquer them. I don’t know if I was that conscious about my fear of sharks or not, but my passion for surfing outweighed my fear of sharks. I think passion is something that’s more powerful than even love; it’s something that you’re not willing to let go and you’ll work really hard to make sure that stays a part of your life.
Kidzworld: I’ve surfed a little. I fall off a lot. I think I get why it’s so cool but you tell us why you love it.
- Bethany: Yeah. Surfing is so unique and it’s something that no matter what level you are, you can go and have fun, and you can pick and choose the waves that you want to surf, so if it is too big and scary, you can wait until it changes and gets more to your level. Every time you go out, it’s always different and unique, and you can bring a different friend and just go and have fun and not worry about everything else. It’s almost like a place you can just de-stress. Sometimes, I stress out because it’s my career at the same time (Bethany is now a pro-surfer) but I can always separate from my career and just go and have an enjoying session. My favorite thing is being creative on waves; it’s like an art form. You can do whatever you want on that wave if you work hard at it and just have fun out there.
Kidzworld: Your director (Sean McNamara) told us that you actually suggested AnnaSophia to play you in this. When did you first become familiar with her work and why did you think that she would be able to bring out Bethany in a movie about you?
- Bethany: I had seen her in several of her films especially The Bridge to Terabithia, which was an amazing movie. There was just something about her, just her acting, and the way she looks, and her eyes. I don’t know, we just saw her and felt that she could pull off the role. It was kind of scary because you never know. When we first met, I was a little nervous because she was a lot shorter than me, and I was like, all I want is to do the stunt surfing for the movie. So I was nervous that they would be like, “Oh, you’re too tall for the stunt surfing.” But it ended up working out, and I got to do a lot of the stunt surfing. And plus, she did an amazing job portraying me.
Kidzworld: Bethany, can you talk a little about your efforts to help tweens, teens and young women deal with body image issues? I know that’s one of your goals.
- Bethany: Yes and I think (I can help them) by living by example. I’m happy with the way that I look, one arm and all, just loving myself as I am and knowing that it’s inside of me that matters most. I share the inside of me with others and hope that they’ll just accept me as I am. I think that by doing that, hopefully it can be an example for young girls especially.
- There’s this one scene in the movie where my mom and I are talking, and she shows me the Venus de Milo statue (which is armless) and talks about beauty. Our health and well-being is something that we can almost control, to a certain extent; we can choose to eat healthy, we can choose to think positively, and we can choose to have good posture. All this stuff makes a difference, and the way that you look and feel.
Kidzworld: So many kids don’t like the way they look and to everybody else, they look just fine.
- Bethany: It’s sad to hear that 1 in 3 girls has an eating disorder because they’re trying to be something that they think they need to be, when it’s such a lie that they’re believing. Meanwhile all over the world there’s people that are starving or dying of something crazy that we forget, and we think we’re the only one in this world. I’m passionate about it.
Kidzworld: Was it cool meeting Carrie Underwood who is in the film?
- Bethany: Yes. I loved her song, “Jesus Take The Wheel”. There’s something special about that song. And then when she came out to be on the movie, she only had a short time to film, and it was her first big role, so I was just stoked to let her have her debut in Soul Surfer. She’s going to bring a wide audience to the film. She just seems really sweet and humble. She was pretty busy, so it wasn’t like we hung out that much, but I was really happy with the way she portrayed my friend Sarah Hill, who’s a huge person in my life (she was Bethany’s church youth group leader). I was just hoping for the right person, and I think Carrie was.
Kidzworld: After losing your arm you just go on as usual but you are dropping things at the beginning. Wasn’t that frustrating for you? Like you can make breakfast but can’t tie your bikini top?
- Bethany: (laughs) Sometimes I actually do get frustrated, because sometimes you just want to do things right. It will build up in you, and then all of a sudden you’re just like, “Ugh!” One thing I’ve learned to do is if I’m struggling with something, my family’s right here to help me. All I have to do is ask them. I think we all forget to talk about what we’re going through and ask people for help when we’re struggling with something. We need to be a friend to each other and help each other with different things; whether it be something physical or just something inside that you’re going through, you gotta be able to open up.
Kidzworld: When you first come home after the attack in the movie your dog checks out your arm “boo boo”. Did that really happen?
- Bethany: Yeah, she did. Hana, the dog in the movie, is my dog now, and she plays my dog Ben. So I was really sad when my dog died, but Hana’s super sweet. Hana was a nightmare to shoot with and edit, but she comes off really cute. It was worth it.
Kidzworld: In this film you’re depicted doing charity work after the Tsunami in Thailand a few years ago. Are you still doing charity work, and if so, what kind?
- Bethany: I don’t really think of it as charity work, I just think every day, how can I make a difference? Whether it just be praying for Japan or helping a friend, or just by being a good example, and when I get the opportunities to go on amazing trips like to Thailand, I’m so excited. I’ve been to Mexico a few times with my church youth group, which was really cool. You go to the orphanage and you love on the kids and help in any way you can. It’s an amazing experience just to be able to do that. I would love to go to Japan someday. I actually wanted to go before all this happened, and I was hoping to go sometime soon. Always looking for ways to help others is something that I just had to do.
Kidzworld: You must have lost hope for a while. Do you remember the exact moment when you got your hope back?
- Bethany: There was never really one moment where I quit surfing, or one moment where I decided to surf forever. I would go through ups and downs, I would go and have bad surf sessions where I would get frustrated before I had a handle on my board. That really happened. I felt invincible in the water, in a sense, when I was little. I was a “Go for it!” kind of girl, and then all of a sudden I’m like, “Well, this is really a lot harder now!”
Kidzworld: But you conquered it. You rock!
Bethany Hamilton Tells Her Story