FamilyLife Today® Podcast

I Know the Plans I Have for You

with Bethany and Cheri Hamilton | April 4, 2011
Play Pause

Today meet a remarkable young woman who refuses to accept defeat. Surfer Bethany Hamilton tells how she lost her arm in a shark attack when she was 13 and why she continues to persevere in the sport, despite the setbacks. Joining her to talk about her new movie, Soul Surfer, is her mother, Cheri.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today meet a remarkable young woman who refuses to accept defeat. Surfer Bethany Hamilton tells how she lost her arm in a shark attack when she was 13 and why she continues to persevere in the sport, despite the setbacks. Joining her to talk about her new movie, Soul Surfer, is her mother, Cheri.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Today meet a remarkable young woman who refuses to accept defeat.

MP3 Download Transcript

I Know the Plans I Have for You

With Bethany and Cheri Hamilton
April 04, 2011
| Download Transcript PDF


 “Thursday night’s a full moon.  We’re all going to go surfing.”

 “Sorry, Mom.  I really wanted to go night surfing.   Would you have let me go?”

“No.  I don’t know.” 

(Audio Clip from Soul Surfer movie)


Bob:  Bethany Hamilton’s mom remembers the day she got a phone call:

“No!  Call 911!”

“Teenage girl from the North Shore; shark attack.”


“Too much lost blood!  She’s going into hypovolemic shock.”

“Please, God, don’t take her.”

Cheri Hamilton:  I thought she just got mangled and she’d have to get stitches, and rehab and everything, and she’d be alright.  So I drove to the hospital and then Hulk calls me (Alana’s father who was out there) and he said, “Are you on your way to the hospital?”  I said, “Yes.  I’ll see you there.”

I go, “Well, how is she?”  And he said, “You don’t know?” 

I go, “No, how is she?” And he said, “She lost her arm.”  Then I just fell apart.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 4th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  Bethany Hamilton and her mom join us today.  Bethany’s story is told in a major motion picture that is being released this coming weekend. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us. 

Dennis:  Bob, have I ever told you the only time I nearly drowned was on a surfboard in Southern California?

Bob:  No, I haven’t heard about that.  What inspired you to go surfing?

Dennis:  Well, first of all, I was spending the summer in Southern California at Campus Crusade’s headquarters, Arrowhead Springs.

Bob:  So, you were how old at this time?

Dennis:  About twenty.

Bob:  OK.

Dennis:  About twenty.  Good physical condition; never really played a sport that I couldn’t conquer.

Bob:  Yes, you’d played baseball and basketball. . .

Dennis:  I hadn’t played golf yet – that conquered me.


But I went down to somewhere north of San Diego.  A friend lived on the beach, and I stayed with him and heard the ocean all night.  We got up the next morning and he said, “Would you like to go surfing?”

I said, “Hey!  You know. . .

Bob:  Come on!

Dennis:  It was back to the “Beach Boys” and all that stuff.  I had visions of grandeur.  They gave me a board.  The surf board was about forty feet long.

Bob:  Yeah?

Dennis:  I’m kidding; it really wasn’t.  It was just a long, heavy surfboard and I could not get beyond the breakers.  The waves would crash over me.

Bob:  You’ve got to paddle out to do this, right?

Dennis:  You’ve got to paddle out . . .

Bob:  And you couldn’t get past the waves?

Dennis:  I couldn’t get past the waves to get out there. .

Bob:  You sissy!


Dennis:  I wonder if our guest would call me a sissy.

Bethany Hamilton and her mom Cheri join us on FamilyLife Today.  Welcome to the broadcast.

Bethany:  Thank you for having us.

Cheri:  Yes, thank you.  Aloha!

Dennis:  From Hawaii!

Bob:  What do you think?  Is he a sissy for not being able to get past the breakers?

Bethany:  I mean, surfing’s a really hard sport.  It just really depends on the variables.  There are so many different variables going on in the ocean, and sometimes it can be really hard.

Dennis:  Thank you!

Bethany:  You probably could have done it if you had been given the right conditions.

Dennis:  Well in case you didn’t recognize Bethany’s name, she is the past winner of the NSSA National Championships for Explore Women in 2005.  That’s for ladies under the age of 18.  That would be like a national championship, right?

Bethany:  Yes.

Dennis:  In surfing?

Bethany:  It’s like the biggest contest for junior competitors in America.

Dennis:  Yes, and you did it with a bit of a physical challenge?

Bethany:  Yes.

Dennis:  How did you do it that was unlike any person who had ever been before you?

Bethany:  Well, I had lost my arm when I was 13.  I started continuing surfing about three weeks later.  I was determined, you know?  I just love surfing and it’s what I’ve grown up with.  It’s just my way of life.  So I started competing again shortly after, and it started going good.  I ended up competing in the next Nationals that there was, and made the finals, and the next year I placed really well, too. 

That’s pretty exciting.

Bob:  Bethany, your arms are a part of what give you balance when you’re surfing, right?

Bethany:  Yes, I think it’s a combination of your whole body.

Bob:  You were used to surfing and to having both arms available to help you however you needed help and then, following the shark attack that took your arm, three weeks later you were back in the water training again?

Bethany:  Yes!

Bob:  I’m just imagining that first day back in the water; this is three weeks after the attack.  Here’s what I was thinking. . .

Dennis:  Well, she’s thirteen years old

Bob:  I was thinking about the question you (Dennis) like to ask people at dinner, “What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?”

I thought, getting back in the water.  Were you at all scared to get back in?

Bethany:  Well, I guess for me it was more that I was fearful I might not be able to surf.  I might not be able to do it, you know? 

So, that was more of a concern to me than sharks or other things.  But I got up my first time surfing, and right at that moment I knew that I would be surfing for a long time.

I didn’t know where surfing would take me, or what life would be like.  I was just happy to be in the water and to be back to doing what I love to do.

Dennis:  Cheri, as I watched the movie that is about your daughter’s life, Soul Surfer,  I was sitting there and, you don’t know this, but we have a son who at the age of thirteen was stricken with a rare neurological disorder that took away his ability to run.

Cheri:  Wow.

Dennis:  And, so, I was looking at this movie about Bethany and I was living on parallel tracks as I was watching that scene of her in the movie going back out surfing.

What were you feeling as you watched her pick up a board and begin to paddle out into the ocean?

Cheri:  I was really excited for her because I had that same passion.  I learned to surf when I was thirteen, and I surfed until I had three kids and then it got to be too much.

So I knew that passion in her heart and I was so excited for her when she was able to get back up and get out there and do it again.

Bob:  Were you scared when she said, “I want to go back”?

Cheri:  No, I was into supporting her in whatever she wanted to do.  It’s a really safe spot where she went back out.

Bob:  Let me ask you to take us back – you said you had a passion for surfing.  You grew up in San Diego and wound up in Hawaii because you loved to surf.  That’s where you met your husband, right?

Cheri:  Yes.

Bob:  And in the movie, Soul Surfer, which is just about to come out in theaters, you kind of watch the family and it looks like you get up every day and maybe do fifteen minutes of school and then you head out to the beach and everybody surfs together.  I mean, that’s kind of the picture you get.  You’re a surfing family.

Cheri:  I know.  I love that family!


They’re amazing!

Bob:  You wish you could be that family?


Tell me about growing up with surfing being a part of your life as a family, and then tell me about the faith journey that your family’s been on as well.

Cheri:  Well, my husband and I got married and then within six months we became Christians through some other friends, surfer friends that had gotten saved.  So, we were really on fire for the Lord. 

Our friends had come over as missionaries from Santa Cruz to Kauai the very day that my husband and I got married.  We’ve been very tight friends ever since then.  The wife, Barbara, actually helped teach my kids as they were growing up with Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, religious education.  She was their main teacher, and she was such a gifted teacher.  Her husband was a pastor for awhile.  We just had so much fun growing up in the Lord with them!  We are friends to this day.

Bob:  You homeschooled the kids?

Cheri:  Partially.  Once Bethany got older, it was too much of a bus ride into town to go to the school.

Bob:  There’s a scene in the movie where Helen Hunt, who plays you, says:

Audio Clip from the Soul Surfer movie: 


“So as soon as you girls get black from the water, I’ve got an English assignment all ready for you.”

“But it’s a holiday.”

“It’s Halloween.”

“We were thinking that we could have a couple extra hours on the waves today?”

“Because you didn’t get enough last night?  Just say the word and we can enroll you girls in Kapaau where you can ride the bus for 45 minutes each way and do eight hours of straight work during prime surf hours, because I’m alright with that.”

“Actually, I love homeschool.”

“Me, too, adore – totally!”


Bob:  Stay home, do a little bit of work, and then we can hit the waves together.

Dennis:  So, as you were raising your family, you were pretty solid in Christ and in the Bible.  Was there ever a moment after the attack when you questioned God?  When you felt like your faith was tested?

The reason I ask this is because as we watched our son, Samuel, lose the ability to run (he was a very gifted athlete), the disease took away something that allowed him to compete.  I almost wondered if, at points, it was harder on Barbara than it was on him at the time.  Did you experience any of that as a mother as you had your ambitions and your dreams for your daughter, and your desire to see her excel?

Cheri:  I wanted to get into some kind of Christian ministry, and every time I would go through a door it would close on me, you know?  So, I just kept praying, “Lord, your will be done.” 

When we were going up through the competition arena, I would see these children win and they would have a huge stage, a huge platform, to go receive their trophy.  There was a significant amount of them – more than I would have thought – that gave God the glory and thanked God up on the stage for their win.  Then other ones wouldn’t.  It was always the Christians who had the better speech; who had more thankfulness and everything.

I thought, “Wow!  That’s it.  That’s our venue.  We’ve got to win; we’ve got to get up there and give God the glory.  That was our goal.  After that, I would focus more.  We would pray a lot for competitions and before heats, and I kind of ran out of words.  I couldn’t think of what to pray because I’m not really good at talking or anything.

So then I said, “OK, let’s just pray for God’s will to be done.  Let’s pray for God to bring you into the center of His will.”  So we did that for about two weeks and then the shark attack happened.

I believed it was an answer to prayer.  She was alive; she was safe.   It was a miracle she was alive.  She shouldn’t have made it.  If you saw the board with the bite out of it and everything – it went all the way. . . It would have ripped out her heart, you know?

I felt a peace that we were in God’s hands, and that He was taking care of us.

Bob:  Do you remember getting the phone call that the attack had happened?

Cheri:  Oh yeah.

Bob:  What’s your recollection of that?

Cheri:  Well, I got several phone calls.  The first one was from Jeff Wallba, who was a friend I hadn’t seen in ten years who had surfed with Tom and I.  We bumped into him at the beach when I dropped Bethany off with the Blanchards to go out that morning.

He called me, and I was running out the door.  I wasn’t going to answer it, and then I thought, “I haven’t seen him in ten years.  Why would he call me?  Maybe Bethany came in and she wants a ride home – I’m going to have to go pick her up.”

So I answered it, and he said, “Your daughter’s been bitten by a shark.  You need to go to the hospital.”

I thought he was joking; I didn’t believe him.  I said, “Yeah, Jeff, right.  Come on, what do you want?”  But he said, “No, you need to go to the hospital.”

So I hung up the phone and I woke up Noah, who was sleeping, and we packed up real fast.  The police called and asked, “Are you going to the hospital?”  I said, “Yes, I’m going.  How is she?”  He said, “Oh, I can’t tell you.  You’ll have to talk to the doctor.”

I thought she just got mangled and she’d have to get stitches, and rehab and everything, and she’d be alright.  And so, then, I drove to the hospital and then Hulk calls me (Alana’s father who was out there) and he said, “Are you on your way to the hospital?”  I said, “Yes. I’ll see you there.”

I go, “Well, how is she?”  And he said, “You don’t know?”  I go, “No, how is she?” And he said, “She lost her arm.” 

Then I just fell apart.  I had to pull off the road because I was crying.  I couldn’t get my act together, and then the ambulance went by and I knew she was in there.  I got my act together and got back on the road and followed the ambulance to the hospital.

Dennis:  Amazing.  You had no idea at that point that she was fighting for her life.  She had lost so much blood. . .

Cheri:  Well I figured she was, so I just followed the ambulance and prayed.  The ambulance driver actually was a guy from our church.  We knew he was a Christian, but I didn’t know he was in there at that time.

Bob:  When did you know she was out of danger?

Cheri:  When I saw her; when I went in there – they let me in within an hour and I was able to see her once I reached the hospital.  I saw her and she smiled.  I just knew then that she would be alright.

Bob:  The way this is portrayed in the film, Bethany appears to have sort of a supernatural calm about her in the midst of all of this; fading in and out of consciousness a little bit, but just at peace almost through the whole thing.  Is that how it was?

Cheri:  Yes, I would say so.

Bethany:  Yes, I think that’s one thing that God just instilled in me:  to be calm and at peace.  I think that when you’re really freaking out, your blood is flowing more, so I might have lost more blood or something like that.  I was pretty conscious throughout the whole experience and it’s just really a miracle that I’m alive. 

It’s pretty crazy what I went through, but I’m here today.  I’m still surfing.  I’m a pro surfer to this day, and now this movie is coming out.  It’s been such a crazy chain of events through all of this happening.

Cheri:  I thought they did a beautiful job portraying in the movie how it really happened.  It’s pretty close.

Dennis:  The shark was how long?

Cheri:  Fourteen and a half feet.

Dennis:  It was a great white?

Bob:  No, a tiger shark.

Cheri:  Tiger shark.

Bethany:  Yeah, and there’s this one scene in the movie (because we actually did catch the shark in real life) where they get to show that scene.  They have the big shark.

Bob:  They’ve got him hanging up on a hook and they match the board to his mouth, right?

Bethany:  Yes, which we actually really did.  Maybe not exactly like that. . .

Dennis:  So the shark actually took a chunk of the board out?

Bethany:  Yes.

Dennis:  That really happened.  Because it is in the movie like you said, Bob.  Your dad compared the mouth of this fourteen and a half foot tiger shark to the bite that was out of the surf board.

Cheri:  Right.  That’s on our book cover; you can see that board with the big bite out of it.

Bob:  It’s one of those unthinkable, unimaginable things.  You’ve surfed your whole life.  Have you ever seen sharks when you’ve been out surfing?

Cheri:  Yes

Bob:  Get near you?

Cheri:  About to the wall.

Bob:  So, five feet or six feet?

Dennis:  But big ones like this?

Cheri:  Probably a five-footer.

Dennis:  Yes, I mean I’ve heard of surfers surfing around them, but fourteen and a half feet. . .

Bob:  Yeah.

Dennis:  Bethany, God does have a plan for your life.

Bob:  You see it as the answer to a prayer.

Cheri:  Right, a venue to glorify God.

Dennis:  And that’s what the movie is all about.

Cheri:  It is.

Dennis:  That’s what you hope the movie will do.

Cheri:  It was outstanding how they did that.  One of the themes that happened after the attack when we first went back to church and then we went around the world and did venues like in Germany, Australia…

Bethany:  Thailand. . .

Cheri:  Thailand, New Jersey.   We would always look for a church and go to church on Sunday –  every time they would always play “Blessed be the name of the Lord; He gives and takes away.”

Bob:  Wow.

Cheri:  And so that song was like a theme song God gave us, and so I thought, “We’ve got to have it in the movie.”  And they did it.  Sean McNamara did an incredible job.

Dennis:  Yes, and as I was watching the movie, that was one of my questions that I was going to ask of you, Bethany.  Was that really a song that was part of your life before the accident, or after?

Bethany:  I mean, I had probably heard it before the accident, but we kept being reminded over and over again with that song, just knowing that God’s in control and He gives and takes away.  He has definitely given more than He has taken away. 

It’s just been interesting to see how God works, and exciting to be able to share His love with people.  Yes, it’s been a really good adventure.

Dennis:  Bethany, the movie also opened with what I guess is your life verse, Jeremiah 29:11:  “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

To someone who is listening right now to this story:  we all need to be reminded that God is in control and He is in charge.  He takes even the things that someone would mean for evil, or that could be interpreted as bad or evil, and wants to use them for good.

The movie Soul Surfer really does give God appropriate credit and honor and glory.  I’m just grateful personally for your life.  First of all, that you survived.  But secondly, as you did survive, you left the glory and the honor in the right place.

Bob:  Yes, and I think people have probably seen the news reports now that the story is out about how the filmmakers actually considered blurring out the scene where Dennis Quaid’s reading from the Bible and where it said, “Holy Bible,” they blurred that out. 

They decided to put it back in.  From the opening moments of this movie, where you’re hearing the worship team sing “Blessed Be Your Name,” to the scene in the hospital where the Scriptures are read, that message comes through loud and clear.  I hope people will go out and see the film.

It’s in theaters, or I should say it’s coming to a theater near you this weekend.  I hope, if you get a chance, you’ll take some friends and go and see the movie Soul Surfer when it hits theaters.

Bethany, you were also involved in a project that we’ve been connected with called “Congratulations 2011.”

Bethany:  Yes.

Bob:  This is a resource that is a gift that you can give to high school graduates that features music from top Christian artists like Jeremy Camp and TobyMac and News Boys and LeCrae and Owl City, others like that.  There’s also a media DVD that comes with it and you’re featured on that DVD talking to seniors about orienting your life in the right direction.

The “Congratulations 2011” Gift Pack is available now.  You can find out more when you go online at  Along with the gift that you give to high school graduates, we’ll send along an additional CD that features Dennis and Barbara Rainey talking to moms and dads about how to make the most of the few months that you have left with your son or daughter before he or she heads off to college or to the work place or to the military service, wherever they’re headed. 

Find out more, again, when you go to  This Congratulations 2011 Gift Pack includes some video footage with Bethany Hamilton.  Bethany has also written a devotional guide for young girls called Soul Surfer.  It’s a 90-day devotional that shares some of her stories from surfing and from her walk with Christ.  There’s information about that devotional on our website as well. is the website or call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY.  That’s 1-800-358-6329.  1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “today.” 

Now, a quick reminder:  we have mentioned before on FamilyLife Today the 2012 Family Life “Love Like You Mean It” cruise that’s going to happen in February of 2012, Valentine’s Week.  We leave Miami on the 13th; we come back on the 17th.  In the meantime, we’ll be visiting Nassau, Grand Bahama Island, and Great Stirrup Kay.

Along with us on the cruise will be Gary Thomas, author of the book Sacred Marriage.  Voddie Baucham is going to join us as well.  And we’re going to hear music from Brandon Heath, Matthew West, and Michael O’Brien’s going to be back with us again next year.  Country music singer/songwriter Paul Overstreet is going to be along as well. 

The cruise is starting to sell out.  We’ve gotten a great response.  In fact, the folks who went on this year’s cruise, a lot of them have signed up to come back again next year.  So we wanted to let you know that if you’re interested in coming with us next February on the “Love Like You Mean It” cruise, this is the right week to sign up.  That’s because this week if you sign up and you put my name in for the promo code – you type in “BOB” – you’ll save $200 on your stateroom for the week. 

In addition, you can spread out your payments over the course of the year and wind up just paying a little bit each month.  And, because things are starting to sell out, if you act now you’ll get a better choice of available staterooms.

So contact us.  Go online at and there’s a link there that will take you to the “Love Like You Mean It” area, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and we can put you in touch with the folks who can answer any questions you might have about next year’s cruise.  We hope you’ll think about joining us. 

If you have a special wedding anniversary coming up next year, this might be the right year for you to come along on the “Love Like You Mean It” cruise in 2012.  Again, find out more at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.

And be sure to be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to talk more with Bethany Hamilton and with her mom about the movie that’s coming out and about her walk with Christ following the shark attack that took her arm years ago.  Hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

Audio footage from the movie, Soul Surfer

Released April 2011 Sony Pictures.

We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you.  However, there is a cost to produce them for our website.  If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?

2011 Copyright © FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.