Yes it can be a challenge being in the public eye at age 13
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 15 April, 2014 - Depending on which media lens you view her through, there are multiple Bethany Hamiltons out there. As seen through the surf media scope she’s the Kauai grom shark-attack-survivor who returns to competition while in Hollywood she’s the inspirational box-office draw (“Soul Surfer” did $47 million globally.) In the Christian community she’s sort of an Energizer Bunny disseminating the word of God to young girls and the world in general.
In Surf and Hollywood media all the mentions of God must end up on the cutting room floor, which is strange because you can’t talk to Bethany Hamilton without hearing the word “Jesus”. You also can’t listen to anyone talk about Bethany without hearing “inspirational” at least a couple of times.
What is “inspirational”? In 2003 a tiger shark bit off Bethany’s arm while she was surfing with Alana Blanchard. Blanchard’s father used his leash to stop the bleeding and ultimately save Hamilton’s life. Although Bethany lost 60% of her blood and underwent many surgeries, she made a miraculous recovery and began competing again. She then won competitions and titles. Her story went viral. And then her story went celluloid with A-List Hollywood actors Helen Hunt and Anna Sophia-Robb.
Most mortals would give up surfing after loosing an arm so, yes, you can see how the public draws inspiration from Bethany. But what a lot of people don’t know is that Bethany is main-lining her against-all-odds spirit and inspiration from the word of God. Read on!
Pro Surfer, Inspirational Speaker, Movie Subject? How would you describe to someone what it is you do exactly for a living?
That’s a tough one, haha! I would say, I travel the world doing what I love! I get to surf professionally, share about my hope in Jesus Christ and promote a healthy lifestyle (which is the subject of my new book coming out for girls). I am honored to inspire many people to live with a purpose and to overcome the challenges they may face in life. It’s definitely a demanding way of life, and it always keeps me on my toes!
You’re in the media a lot. Do you feel accurately portrayed in the various, films, interviews and articles? If not, what have people gotten wrong about you and your story?
I think there’s always a possibility of being misquoted or misunderstood through the media. But when you live a life of consistency, it all works out in the end. I feel like people have a good idea of my character.
Bethany Hamilton © Rip Curl/Noah Hamilton
You have a lot of dedicated fans. Please share with us one of the more colorful moments you’ve had with a fan or fans.
I am so grateful for my fans and all their love, stoke and support. There's a group of super fans on Instagram and I kind of stalk their posts on me. Sometimes they find photos of me I have never seen! My favorite times are when I can impact young people’s lives in a positive way. It seems as though our culture and media have dampened people’s understanding of what is right and wrong, and I hope I can always urge young people to think through their decisions.
Some of my most memorable times with fans are granting the wishes of my Make-A-Wish kids. I meet up with them and sometimes take them surfing. One girl, Cheyenne, who's wish I granted, lives with muscular dystrophy. She has been bullied a lot at school, which often times leaves her to have a very quiet manner. She was shy when we first met, but as soon as she got in the water she was free as a mermaid and couldn't stop talking. When we went swimming I realized the water was a place of independence for her and I was a ray of hope in her life. It was a blessing to grant her wish.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Waiting tables? Running a Sunday School?
I remember when I first lost my arm, the uncertainty of my future was intimidating. But I know that God can lead all of us through rough times and give us purpose to live beyond ourself. I love being healthy and active. I think I'd like to be doing something with nutrition or holistic health.
What is that you do that you are most proud of?
I am glad that I get to live out my faith on a public platform. From a young age, my prayer was that God would open doors for me to honor Him through my life. I am so thankful that those prayers have been answered. I’m also thankful for the patience I chose in waiting for my husband. We have now been married 7 months. He is so supportive in all our endeavors and sharing life with him is amazing. Waiting was not easy but totally worth it!
What has been your biggest mistake? And what did you learn from that mistake?
Being thrown into the public eye so young was very challenging. I have had amazing people manage all my requests since I was 13. I wish I had asked for more advice on how to grow in decision making and better manage my management. Becoming a leader has much effect on others and there were times when I didn't do my best in leading my management. I guess I wanted to be a kid and just surf.
Today I am continuously working to better communicate with the people around me and I ask for advice when I need it.
OK, you get to drop into five moments in history – surf or otherwise. Please name them and why.
1. The creation of the World. As a Christian, I read the bible and believe it is the whole truth. I'd like to go back and see God create the world. Kinda a hefty drop in and maybe it would be too much for my mind to handle, but it sure would be incredible!
2. Hurricane Iniki on Kauai in 1992. I was only 2 years old. I'd like to see that for some odd reason.
3. If I could take my quiver of boards, I’d drop into a really good swell in Hawaii and surf uncrowded waves, maybe with Duke.
4. When my mom and dad were teenagers and were intermediate at surfing. I would go surf with them and ride their surf boards and surf where they used to.
5. Jesus dying on the cross. Not that I would want to see that, but to see the most historical moment in the history of the world would be crazy.
ps: My husband’s 2nd historic visit would be go see dinosaurs and have a basket on top of one of the dino’s heads and ride around in it! He would be the smartest cave man around.... hehe hahahaha. Thank you for a great interview! Refreshing questions!