Pro surfer Bethany Hamilton shot to fame after her inspiring return to surfing following a shark attack that cost her her left arm in 2003. Now the 21-year-old Hawaii native gets the surreal experience of watching her story recounted on screen in Soul Surfer. Metro spoke with Hamilton about seeing her life on screen, getting her story told the right way and balancing movie responsibilities, her surfing schedule and charity work.
What was your reaction when you saw the finished film?
Seeing the final cut, I was just stoked. I was kind of just nervous what Hollywood would do with a true story. But my family and I being able to give input and feedback on the script really helped it just stay true to who we are and authentic. And that’s what we wanted, just to share our faith and our love for surfing.
What did you think of AnnaSophia Robb, who plays you in the film?
AnnaSophia is amazing. I think she did so well just capturing who I am and my outlook on life. We became really good friends and got to hang out, and I taught her to surf. I think just by her getting to know me really helped her show who I am to the world.
Was there any parts of the movie that were harder to watch than others?
No, I don’t feel like I’m reliving it at all. And I’ve healed really well from everything, so it’s been nice to not be so emotional and just be able to watch it and critique it and help it to be more accurate. The shark attack, for example, really was very accurate to how it actually happened. It was just really quick — in and out of there real quick, and I didn’t see anything. So I think that’s kind of nice, because I didn’t want to cause shark-phobia. I hope it doesn’t scare people away from the water. I want them to go out and enjoy the ocean and try surfing and go for swims and stuff. It’s something so special.
Your work with relief organization World Vision after the 2005 tsunami in Thailand plays a major part in the film. Have you been doing anything similar after the Japanese tsunami?
I’ve been tweeting about it a bit just to keep people’s awareness and not to forget. So often when tragic stuff happens, it’s like, “Oh no, look at this, this is awful!” And then you just forget the next day. But I approached World Vision to see if I could go, but I don’t know. I wish it was a different time, because I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, even before the tsunami. It’s really sad. The Japanese people are just so beautiful. I have a good friend that I travel with and compete against, and she’s from Japan. She’s one of the best surfers ever out of Japan. I was just really upset when I heard about that, even though I know she’s OK.
Where are you in the pro surfing calendar now?
It just started. I had one event so far this year, which didn’t go so well. I’m not really expecting much with all the distractions with the movie, but I’ll still compete this year and hopefully get back into the groove of things soon.