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The unstoppable faith of Soul Surfer Beth Hamilton

Beth Hamilton would rather be in the ocean than doing another interview about herself. But you should already know that, because Beth Hamilton is one of the most recognisable female pro surfers in the world.

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Having survived a shark attack in 2003 when she was surfing as a 13-year-old, Hamilton’s continued life on the waves – despite losing her left arm – has been a perpetual source of inspiration to many. So much so that Hollywood drama Soul Surfer (2011) immortalised the incident and its immediate aftermath.

“It all comes back to allowing God to work through everything that we go through.” – Bethany Hamilton

But, wait, there’s more to Beth Hamilton. “I loved Soul Surfer, but Unstoppable just captures the real me,” explains Hamilton, about a new documentary that reveals her sustained surf career as well as her entry into motherhood and growing in her Christian faith.

“My personality is definitely more honest and, like, more ‘Bethany’ … I don’t know. It’s hard to explain but I just feel really good about being able to share my story on more of a personal level.

“I can’t say storytelling is my full passion, but I see the beauty and good of it. I think a movie can help other people overcome their tough times.”

Supported by Christian Surfers Australia, Unstoppable will be on limited release around Australia from March 13. It charts Hamilton as she rides the highs – in 2017, she was inducted into the Surf Hall of Fame – and tries to pull through the lows that come with living life.

Unstoppable definitely captures my broader journey, from entering motherhood – and the uncertainty of that – and the ups and downs of a professional surfing career.

“For sure, naturally, my faith has been a part of that and it all comes back to allowing God to work through everything that we go through.”

While she always wanted to be a mum, Hamilton was surprised at how out of her depth she felt after the birth of her first son, Tobias, in 2015.

“I had always looked forward to becoming a mum and, when it happened, I was freaking out. I felt unready. And I think that is the opposite of what God intends for us. He wants us to embrace this God-given journey of becoming a parent.

“Even though I had such amazing family support and my husband cheering me on all the time, we still had this sense of ‘aaaaargh, what’s going on?’ So, being honest, you know, I’m not a perfect person and I’m not trying to pretend I am.”

“God gave me this passion and ability to surf for a reason” – Bethany Hamilton

In her relaxed and unguarded way, Hamilton wants to be upfront and un-airbrushed about how her faith, abilities and outlook make a difference across her whole life, not just when it came to initially overcoming a shark attack. She even seems surprised when asked about why she clings to her Christian faith, rather than dump it when circumstances or events overwhelm.

“In all that I’ve been through, I know that God has been my strength and rock. Why would I reject that?  God gave me this passion and ability to surf for a reason.”

Keen to use Unstoppable as a platform for encouraging others, Hamilton has created an online course, blogs and social media posts to empower others to “be your most awesome self”. It’s particularly directed at anyone who feels “lost, confused and, maybe, hopeless.”

As one of those famous faces who is, officially, an Inspiring Person, Hamilton says it’s easy to not make it all about her. Keeping the focus on giving glory to God, not glory to Hamilton, is as simple as catching a wave for this pro surfer.

“I don’t try to overthink all that. I try to live my life the best I can, to share [my faith] in a way that feels natural and real,” she explains.

“Part of making Unstoppable was that it was my opportunity to create how I communicated my message without having Hollywood or someone else create a film [about it].”

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