There are worse jobs to have than learning how to surf in Hawaii for a role in a movie, and Dennis Quaid isn’t complaining.
In Soul Surfer, Quaid plays the father of Bethany Hamilton, a teenager who lost an arm in a shark attack but went on to become a professional surfer.
Quaid sat down with Metro to talk surfing, working in Hawaii and having the person your playing standing just off-screen.
Had you heard of Bethany’s story before getting the script?
I saw Bethany on the Today show on her book tour about two Christmases ago. There was something about her that just struck me, how inspirational and special she was, at the same time being so normal. I just welled up hearing her story. Then they called me five days later and my agent said, “Do you know who Bethany Hamilton is? They want you to play her dad.” So that was a pretty easy yes.
What was your reaction to her story?
It was inspiring, is really what it was. And Bethany took this horrific shark attack that happened to her and just made it a bump in the road of her life.
Had you done much surfing before the movie?
None at all. And it’s really hard to learn. I had really great teachers and the benefit of time. Once you actually catch a wave and ride it, it’s such a great feeling. I gave up golf for surfing for a while, which is a big thing for me. It was like two months that I had for training, all in Hawaii, where the water’s warm. Now I surf back here and I have a wetsuit that has a heating coil in it. Those winter months … the water’s, like, 87 degrees out there and 50-something degrees here. Big diff.
How much time did you spend with the Hamiltons?
They were on the set every day. The boys, Tim and Noah, were actually working on the crew, and Bethany was doing surfing in the film. Tom and I would play golf and surf. It was great for me, especially with Tom. I’ve played a lot of real people before, but it’s nice to have somebody there. It makes my job easier, actually.