Surf’s up and so is ‘Unstoppable’

  • Bill Buley / TGIFR!DAY

    Kauai native Bethany Hamilton graces the poster for a new documentary on her life, “Unstoppable,” as seen in the lobby of Waimea Theatre recently.

If you’re a Bethany Hamilton fan, if you know of her story, if you’re a surfer, if you call Hawaii home, you’ll love “Unstoppable.”

And if you’re not a Bethany Hamilton fan (hard to believe), if you haven’t heard her story (you must live a sheltered life) and if you don’t live in Hawaii (most people don’t), you’ll still enjoy this documentary for what it is: A tribute to the strength, courage and determination of someone who simply insists that despite the loss of her left arm to a shark, life is and will be beautiful — if you have faith and believe.

Hamilton definitely has faith and she definitely believes.

This documentary by Aaron Lieber recently had a week-long run at the Waimea Theatre and pretty much packed the house each night. In some ways, it continues the story that was told in “Soul Surfer.” With incredible surfing footage, it takes viewers on a thrilling ride with Bethany as she goes up against the best surfers in the world (and wins two heats) and conquers the massive waves of “Jaws” off the coast of Maui. We also get to meet, on screen, her husband, Adam (a cool dude himself) and their first son, Tobias. They are relaxed and happy, supportive, facing the same daily challenges most of us do.

It also introduces amazing footage of Bethany in the hospital not longer after the shark attack, even then, as a 13-year-old, displaying humor and resolve far beyond the years of your typical teen. Her parents, thankfully, were even then filming much of Bethany’s life, including some comical scenes with her best friend, Alana Blanchard, when they were kids. Blanchard, by the way, went on to surf on the pro tour.

Quick bit of background for those not sure what this is all about: Hamilton lost her arm in a tiger shark attack while surfing with Blanchard and others at Tunnels Beach off Haena. In about four weeks, she was back in the water surfing. Her story garnered national attention and, since then, she has since been a celebrity of sorts, always the center of attention, something she isn’t wild about. Her private life and family time are important to her.

The documentary, perhaps surprisingly, only lightly touches on Hamilton’s Christian faith. But it does make clear she is a believer in God. Her foundation, Friends of Bethany Hamilton, is a nonprofit whose goal is to “encourage a broken world by offering hope to overcome through Jesus Christ.”

While the focus is on Hamilton, we get to hear from her fellow pro surfers, family members and friends about her and how she overcomes challenges. Some express a little skepticism about her efforts to surf successfully at the top level again, but for the most part everyone is rooting for her.

Hamilton, by the way, in no way considers herself disabled, and as the movie points out, declined an ESPY nomination as a top disabled athlete.

“Unstoppable” happens to be part of the name of her book, “Be Unstoppable: The Art of Never Giving Up.” Her other books include “Soul Surfer” and “Body &Soul: A Girl’s Guide to a Fit, Fun and Fabulous Life.”

This movie ends with Bethany taking on “Jaws” and winning. No surprise.

If there’s one thing to come out of this documentary, it’s this: Bethany Hamilton never lost faith. She never lost hope. She persevered. She believed in herself and the gifts given to her by God. And it’s clear she is thankful.

That’s how you become “Unstoppable.”


Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or


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