You likely know and love Bethany Hamilton, but like many public figures, her life is often reduced into simple talking points:
- She’s an amazing surfer
- She survived a shark attack
- She’s the Soul Surfer
- She’s an inspirational speaker
However, each of these talking points carries a robust and complex story behind it. In the new documentary Unstoppable releasing in theaters on July 12, viewers are invited in to learn the intimate details of Hamilton’s life, elevating their understanding far beyond simple bullet points.
An Elite Surfer
Born into a passionate family of surfers in Hawaii, Hamilton treated the Pacific Ocean as her backyard, rapidly rising the ranks as an elite surfer at a young age. While watching Unstoppable, you begin to grasp how promising Hamilton’s athletic career was prior to her attack. She was already sponsored by Rip Curl, winning elite competitions and well on her way to a professional surf career. Through this lens, you better understand why her resolve was so strong to return back to the ocean following the shark attack.
Offering intimate family footage of Hamilton’s recovery in the hospital following her high-profile shark attack, viewers of Unstoppable begin to grasp the fear, pain and resolve that the entire Hamilton family experienced during Bethany’s recovery. Notably, Bethany references a powerful conversation she had with a family friend and fellow shark attack survivor who gave her the faith to believe that she could excel again on her board following the loss of limb. Emerging from her attack with great creativity and hope, Bethany discovered a well of strength that helped her navigate out of her season of doubt.
A Woman of Faith
Hamilton has always been extremely vocal about her love for Christ and the ways that her faith helped her overcome any challenge life brought her way. She explained that “as a Christian, I really cling tight to the promises that God has for my life. They remain steady and true, aren’t going to waiver or change and are there for us to rely on. He grows us in our faith as we go through hard times.”
In Unstoppable, we get a glimpse into the organic ways that faith is a part of Bethany’s life and how her love for the ocean and God’s creation is a worshipful experience. The film is not heavy-handed on topics of faith, but rather showcases the integrated ways that Christ provides just a simple guiding light for Bethany.
An Adaptive Athlete
While watching Unstoppable, you see Hamilton’s frustration with how she’s often pigeon-holed into the “disabled” category. She reveals her mixed feelings with the label, ultimately explaining that because she’s able to fully compete against elite surfers, a more appropriate description would be as an “adaptive” athlete. She reveals a frustration when nominated for an ESPY Award in the “Best Athlete with a Disability” category. “I’m far from disabled, I compete against the world’s best… If anything, that category should be eliminated or called ‘Best Adaptive Athlete,’ because so many of these athletes that are categorized as disabled are so incredibly abled. They’re doing it with less of a body, so to say, and doing it just as well as people with all four limbs”
In this film, we see the creative and inspiring ways that Hamilton uses props like foam rollers and a handle on her surfboard to adapt her athletic performance and compete at the highest level.
An Inspiring Public Figure
National news coverage, the Soul Surfer film and public adoration put Hamilton in a unique situation. She’s able to inspire millions, but as a public figure, the demands of her public appearances can be all-consuming. We’re given insight into how her role as a public figure often took time away from her passion to train as an elite athlete.
A Family Woman
This film provides a beautiful peek into the love story of Bethany and her husband Adam Dirks. Offering stunning footage of their wedding and tender discussion of their mutual admiration for each other, it’s clear that their love is rock-solid.
In the film, we’re also given a glimpse into the couple’s discovery that they’re pregnant. While they’re thrilled to welcome their son into the world, the timing of the pregnancy puts Hamilton in a difficult bind that many women face; she desires to give her son Tobias all the care in the world, but his birth proves challenging for her career and aspirations to excel as an elite athlete.
A Passionate Dreamer
The most inspiring theme of Unstoppable is Hamilton’s ability to never cease chasing her dreams. While most people who face a violent shark attack would never desire to surf again, the 2003 attack seemed to only strengthen Hamilton’s resolve to spend more time in the ocean she finds so beautiful. She never stops dreaming about competing at an elite level and has taken home numerous honors after her attack, proving her powerful athleticism. She also dreams big about surfing the world’s most challenging waves and mastering some of the world’s most complex surfing moves. Her passion for the ocean and the sport is breathtaking.
Unstoppable offers a complex and holistic insight into Hamilton’s life. Featuring stunning cinematography of some of the world’s most beautiful surf footage, this film begs to be seen on the big screen. It opens on July 12, find the screening nearest you.