Bethany Hamilton has become a source of inspiration to millions through her story of faith, determination, and hope. And now, her story has become a major motion picture as SOUL SURFER opens in theaters across the nation on April 8. SOUL SURFER features an all-star cast, including AnnaSophia Robb and Helen Hunt, with Carrie Underwood in her film debut, and Dennis Quaid.
Born into a family of surfers on February 8, 1990, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, Bethany began surfing at a young age. At the age of eight, Bethany entered her first surf competition—winning both the short and long board divisions and sparking a love for surf competition within her spirit.
On October 31, 2003, Bethany was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing off Kauai's North Shore. The attack took Bethany's left arm, seemingly ending her career as a rising surf star just as it was beginning. Bethany says:
"It was Jesus Christ who gave me peace when I was attacked by the shark. They had to get me to the beach, which took 20 minutes of paddling. 'The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus' (Philippians 4:6-8)."
After losing more than 60 percent of her blood, and making it through several surgeries without infection, Bethany was on her way to recovery with an unbelievably positive attitude. Lifeguards and doctors believe her strong water sense and faith in God helped get her through the traumatic ordeal. Miraculously, just one month after the attack, Bethany returned to the water to continue pursuing her goal to become a professional surfer.
"It was what God had taught me growing up that helped me overcome my fear and get back on the board. 'Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go' (Joshua 1:9)."
In January of 2004, Bethany made her return to surf competition, placing fifth in the Open Women's division. With no intention of stopping, Bethany continued to enter and excel in competition. Just over a year after the attack she took first place in the Explorer Women's division of the 2005 National Scholastic Surfers Association National Championships—winning her first National Title.
In 2007, Bethany realized her dream and turned pro. Bethany has since participated in numerous Association of Surfing Professionals and World Tour Events with her major highlight being a second place finish in the ASP 2009 World Junior Championships.
Since losing her arm, Bethany's story has been told in hundreds of media outlets and she has been recognized with numerous awards, public appearances, and various speaking engagements. In October 2004, Bethany shared her life story in her autobiography, Soul Surfer. Other books Bethany has written include Devotions for the Soul Surfer, Rise Above, A "Soul Surfer" Bible, Ask Bethany, and a fictional series of books based on her adventures: Clash, Burned, Storm, and Crunch. Bethany was the inspiration for Becky Baumgartner's 2007 documentary, Heart of a Soul Surfer.
From a young age, Bethany's parents instilled their faith in Jesus Christ; and at age 5, she made the decision to have a personal relationship with Him. Bethany's foundation of faith has been her backbone; her source of truth, hope, and strength. Out of the water, Bethany has grown from a young teenage girl with aspirations of becoming a professional surfer into a professional surfer with aspirations of becoming a beacon of inspiration and hope. Through the platform of professional sport, Bethany has been able to touch a large number of people with her message, charitable efforts, and overall spirit. Bethany just launched her own foundation, Friends of Bethany, which supports shark attack survivors, traumatic amputees, and serves to inspire others through her life story, and is involved in numerous other charitable efforts.
"My youth leader, Sarah Hill, has been a really good support and encourager for me. God gave her a verse for me the day I was attacked: '"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future''' (Jeremiah 29:11)."
Bethany's story is continually growing as she strives to be the best at whatever God calls her to do. The future is truly wide open for this young soul surfer!
"What great things God is doing! I am so thankful that I get to be a part of His plan! 'I thank Jesus Christ our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful appointing me to His service' (1 Timothy 1:12). To me, this verse tells me that God considered me faithful enough to appoint me to His service!"
In SOUL SURFER, Bethany is portrayed by AnnaSophia Robb.Back To Top
Tom Hamilton grew up in Ocean City, New Jersey, where he was born in 1948 into a family of competitive swimmers. Tom found his passion as a teenager when he began to surf.
While serving in the US Navy in Vietnam, Tom befriended a native Hawaiian who invited him to visit. What was supposed to be a four-day backpacking and surfing trip is closing in on a four-decade adventure.
Captured by Kauai's beauty, waves, and people, Tom found his new home. He enrolled at Kauai Community College, where he earned an associate's degree. Through surfing, he met Cheri, and the two married in August 1979. The newlyweds began attending a small Bible study that would lead them both into an ongoing friendship with Jesus. After committing their lives to God, they began attending Garden Island Christian Fellowship.
Tom and Cheri are the parents of three adult children: Noah, Timothy, and Bethany. From an early age, the Hamiltons had their children in the 78-degree ocean waters surrounding Kauai. They naturally took to swimming, body boarding, and surfing—Bethany's sport of choice. By the age of 12, she was a top surfer in the Under 18 age category.
At 13, however, Bethany lost an arm in a shark attack. Her story, centered on her strong faith and the incredible bond and support of her family, is the basis of the new movie SOUL SURFER. Dennis Quaid plays Tom in the film.
"When the attack happened, Cheri and Bethany had been praying for God to give Bethany a platform to show his love to the surfing world and beyond. After the attack, our family tried to process the event and how all of our lives were changed in an instant. I definitely struggled with the big questions: Why? What is your purpose in this God? He slowly started speaking to my heart about how Bethany would overcome and reach more souls for Him, and continue the work that he started in our family. The movie SOUL SURFER is part of that work, along with everything else God has in store for the future!"
Well known in the local surfing community, Tom has long waited tables at high-end visitor hotels. As he says, "I used to be known as Tom Hamilton. Now everyone knows me as Bethany's Dad ... and that's okay with me!"
In SOUL SURFER, Tom is portrayed by Dennis Quaid.Back To Top
Growing up in beach-loving family in San Diego, Cheri Hamilton learned to surf in the summer of 1966. In the early 1970s, she moved to Kauai to fully embrace her passion for surfing and to live a simpler lifestyle.
She met her future husband, Tom Hamilton, while surfing in Hawaii. Working evenings together at the Kauai Surf Hotel, they spent their days surfing.
Within six months of being married, Cheri and Tom became Christians through the influence of surfing friends. The Hamiltons taught their three children about the love of Jesus and provided them the opportunity to grow in their faith at home and through Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and religious education classes.
The Hamiltons also taught their children how to surf. Cheri says:
"As parents, we went out of our way to make sure they got their daily dose of surf and beach time. We signed them all up for the local kids' surf contests mostly for fun and so they could hang with their friends. All of our children enjoyed playing soccer, but when their games started conflicting with the surf contest, we made the choice to surf. And that's what we have been doing ever since!"
In SOUL SURFER, Cheri is portrayed by Helen Hunt.Back To Top
Noah Hamilton was born in December of 1981 and raised on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Learning to swim and surf with his parents, Tom and Cheri, at a young age, Noah's lifestyle reflected that of a true beach grom. At four years old, he became a big brother to Tim, and when he was eight years old, his sister Bethany was born.
As an active young man, Noah not only surfed, but also played soccer, baseball, roller hockey, and basketball. His relationship with Jesus began as a young boy and grew stronger as he committed himself to living a pure lifestyle—without drugs, alcohol, partying, girls, etc. This was definitely contrasting to the typical habits of teens and young adults on the island. He enjoyed staying busy at events with his youth group, and surrounding himself with friends making Godly choices. While he was in junior high, his pastor Rick Bundschuh introduced him to Christian music he found relevant, including Dogwood, P.O.D., Olivia the Band, Shawn McDonald, Jeremy Camp, and Switchfoot. Noah feels this also helped mold and shape his character.
Photography caught his eye when he took a photography class during his senior year of high school and realized there was other ways to make art besides his failed drawing attempts. As his knowledge of the art grew, so did his photography repertoire: portraiture, weddings, action sports, underwater/surfing, advertising, travel, and editorial. While studying business at Heald College on Oahu, Noah's photography business formed.
Noah has had his photography featured in consumer magazines and the advertising campaigns of international brands. Noah takes photos throughout the islands of Hawaii and also travels around the globe. He has become the personal photographer for his sister, professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, who survived a shark attack and the loss of her left arm to become an inspiration to the world.
On May 31, 2009, Noah married his best friend and the love of his life, Becky Baumgartner. Together they manage Bethany in her surfing career and motivational efforts. He and Becky enjoy a simple lifestyle on Kauai's north shore and enjoy surfing, shooting photos, traveling, and adventuring together!
In SOUL SURFER, Noah is portrayed by Ross Thomas.Back To Top
Tim Hamilton was born in June of 1986, the second of Tom and Cheri Hamilton's three children. His subtle, dry sense of humor, like his father's, is a source of laughter in the Hamilton home.
Along with his siblings, he learned to surf at a young age. Yet early on, Tim gravitated more toward body (or boogie) boarding. Tim is known as a major "charger" when it comes to hitting the waves. With seemingly little fear, he drops into the biggest and gnarliest waves and comes out smiling.
While in junior high school, Tim developed an interest in videography, recording his friends, fellow body boarders, and his sister Bethany surfing. Through hands-on learning with his parents' video camera and a few classes, his interest and skill level grew. Along the way, he also learned how to digitally edit and created a body-boarding movie called Boogie Nation.
The skills he began developing as a teen has led to a career working in the camera department of movies and television shows filmed in Hawaii, including The Event, Lost, Hawaii Five-O, and, of course, SOUL SURFER. While he enjoys his work, Tim likes to say he keeps his priorities straight, making time for surf trips around the world.
Tim became a believer at a young age and has stayed true to his faith in Christ since. He regularly attends church fellowship and studies his Bible. Tim considers himself a light to his friends in the body boarding and filmmaking communities.
In SOUL SURFER, Tim is portrayed by Chris Brochu.Back To Top