‘Unstoppable’ movie premiere with Bethany Hamilton, benefitting Wonderfully Made
Sunday, April 14, 2 p.m.
Arlington Theatre (1317 State St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101)
More than 98 percent of girls feel an immense pressure from external sources to look a certain way, according to the National Report on Self Esteem.
Author Steven Hinshaw says in his book, The Triple Bind, that nearly 25 percent of girls today fall into clinical diagnosis, ranging from depression to eating disorders to cutting.
Bethany Hamilton is making it her life’s mission to show girls and young women all over the world that obstacles are meant to be overcome — and triumph is just around the corner.
“Some days I feel like I am totally stopped,” Hamilton told the News-Press. “But you have to keep moving forward in life.”
Hamilton had every reason to give up at a young age, losing her left arm to a shark attack, seemingly derailing a promising surfing career. At 13, she had already reached a life crossroads — would this be a built-in excuse to feel sorry for herself or was it an opportunity to overcome the odds?
She leaned on her faith — “God is still my rock today,” she says — and her family, something she encourages all young women to do.
“You see the challenge, cope with it and embrace it,” Hamilton said. “Once I started seeing the good in the loss (of her arm), it was a light I was able to share with girls.
“It inspires me to continue to share my story.”
The world got a front-row seat when her story went Hollywood in 2011 with the release of “Soul Surfer,” a movie starring Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Carrie Underwood and AnnaSophia Robb.
Despite a modest of budget of $18 million, the film would make $47.1 million — propelling the once-focused surfer into a spotlight that she has chosen to utilize to help young women all over the world.
In 2014, in an effort to get some of her focus back on riding waves, she partnered with director Aaron Lieber, wanting to make a short film on strong female surfers, including herself.
But as they traveled around the world, Hamilton realized that there was so much more to her story that people did not know — the “real me,” she called it.
Five years later, Hamilton will be coming to Santa Barbara on April 14 at the Arlington Theatre to premiere, “Unstoppable,” a documentary focused on the resilience it has taken for her to succeed in life — albeit losing an arm or struggling with becoming a mother for the first time.
“When I first got pregnant, I didn’t feel excited about becoming a mom,” Hamilton explained. “I felt really nervous, apprehensive — emotions that weren’t necessarily truthful.
“Now I look back at it, and it is so incredibly beautiful. He’s the joy of my life.”
Those real-life struggles continue to inspire Hamilton to give back, and she has worked with Wonderfully Made — “a non-profit organization helping teen girls and young women know their value and worth” — for years now, hosting hundreds of kids on the South Coast alongside an organization that was founded by Allie Marie Smith here in Santa Barbara.
Hamilton also feels indebted to Wonderfully Made, as the organization was one of the few that contributed to Hamilton’s Kickstarter campaign to make “Unstoppable” a reality.
“There was only a small group that got us going,” said Hamilton, who also employs Santa Barbara’s Channel Islands Surfboards to help with the shaping of her surfboards.
Hamilton is passionate about her own foundation, Anchored In Love, which has proven to be the perfect companion to Smith’s Wonderfully Made. The two organizations have hosted one-day conferences the past five years — with Hamilton as keynote speaker — and have inspired more than 7,000 teen girls and young women.
“Too many of our girls today are depressed, anxious, battling eating disorders, experiencing social media bullying and poor body image, or making destructive decisions,” Smith said. “Many of today’s girls are dying inside and don’t know the life of great worth and purpose God has for her.”
With International Women’s Day being celebrated today, Hamilton does feel that positive reinforcement is more important than ever.
“The way online influences young women — there’s lots of insecurity growing, throwing girls for a loop,” Hamilton said. “We need to work on helping them being confident in who they are.
“I get letters from kids all around the world. Hearing my story helped them through their tough times. There is a fine line in embracing it, but still being who I am. I try not to let it get to my head.”
‘Unstoppable’ as a title wasn’t even her own idea, leaning on Lieber for ideas.
“Never thought of myself (as unstoppable), but, in a sense, it is the message I love to share,” Hamilton said. “(We can’t) let tough times stop us from being thankful and looking at what’s next in life. Now I love the name of the film. I’ve definitely embraced it.
“I just want to inspire young girls — whether they are sporty or not — to stay true and be the best they can be.”