FamilyLife Today® Podcast

To Give You a Future and a Hope

with Bethany and Cheri Hamilton | April 5, 2011
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Bethany Hamilton continues to inspire millions through her unwavering faith. Hear how she overcame all odds and became a champion surfer again, after losing her arm in a shark attack at age 13. Bethany and her mother, Cheri, talk about the new movie about her life, Soul Surfer, coming to theaters April 15.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Bethany Hamilton continues to inspire millions through her unwavering faith. Hear how she overcame all odds and became a champion surfer again, after losing her arm in a shark attack at age 13. Bethany and her mother, Cheri, talk about the new movie about her life, Soul Surfer, coming to theaters April 15.

  • 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.

Bethany Hamilton continues to inspire millions through her unwavering faith.

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To Give You a Future and a Hope

With Bethany and Cheri Hamilton
April 05, 2011
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Bob:  After losing her arm to a shark, when she was thirteen years old, Bethany Hamilton got right back up on her surfboard, continued to compete, and to stare down the ten foot waves that would come crashing toward her.  She was not at all afraid or intimidated.

Bethany:  For me, what is more intimidating is becoming famous, which is something that I can’t really stop.  It’s just kind of been a part of my life since losing my arm.  It’s happened.  For me, that is more challenging than going surfing and dealing with a big wave on my head.  I guess it is just my way of sharing Jesus Christ with everyone.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April 5th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  Bethany Hamilton and her mom join us today.  Bethany talks about what it’s like to have your story made into a major Hollywood motion picture and how you deal with the fame that comes with that.

Welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us.  So, I just want to know, did you choke up at the end when you were watching the movie?  Did you get a little—

Dennis:  I did.  In fact, Barbara and I were watching the movie, Soul Surfer.  Truth be known, for probably both of us (but more for Barbara), it had been one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.  I want to move to Australia type of days.

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  You know where it was just a tough day, and Barbara was a bit discouraged.  Honestly— and by the way, we’re in the studio here with Bethany Hamilton and her mom, Cheri.  Cheri, Bethany welcome to the broadcast.  I want you to know as Barbara didn’t want to watch the movie, okay?

Bob:  This is Bethany’s story told in a new feature film that is coming out in theaters this week.

Dennis:  Right.  I don’t mean to insult you with that.  That was just the state of where she was at the end of the day; but she started watching the movie, and I think that the movie really ministered to her and put her day and kind of what had happened to her that day (because there had been some things happen that day to her)—you’re movie kind of put life in context. 

Bethany, you’re a surfer.  You lost an arm as a thirteen year old to a shark, a fourteen and a half foot tiger shark.  The story is the story of your life: not only how you grew up in competition really in a surfing family, as Cheri, as you, shared earlier, but also how you went on to compete after you lost your arm. 

In the movie, Jeremiah 29:11 is quoted near the beginning of the movie.

Bob:  It is Carrie Underwood playing your youth leader—

Bethany:  Yes.

Bob:  —who quotes that verse.

Audio Clip from Soul Surfer movie:

Youth leader:  “Can anyone tell me what he or she thinks this is?” 

“Easy.  It is a dodge ball.”

Youth leader: No.

Or Mars.”

Youth leader:  Uh-uh.

Blob in a lava lamp.” 


Youth leader:  Very creative, but no.  It is a fly’s eye.


Youth leader:  How about this one?

A brain.”

Aren’t brains supposed to be pink.”

A dead rotting brain.”


Youth leader:  Gross, and that is a walnut.  So, you see how hard it can be to make sense of things when you’re looking at them really close.  The same thing is true in life.  So, if you guys are dealing with anything that is just too hard to handle or it doesn’t seem to make much sense, get a new perspective. 

I want to share with you guys something that has really made an impact in my life.  It is Jeremiah 29:11.  “‘For I know that plans I have for you’, says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Bob:  Carrie Underwood seems like a pretty cool youth leader.  I hope that your youth leader is as cool as she played her as being in the film.

Dennis:  Yes.

Bethany:  Yes.  My youth leader/best friend is Sarah Hill.  We’re still really good friends to this day.  She was one of the first people I saw after the shark attack in the hospital.  She shared with me that verse, and it’s kind of just been a verse that I can always refer back to.  Just be reminded that God has a plan and a future for me. 

He is in control, and He wants to just guide me through every step of the way.  So, just when I do decide to trust in Him, He always just guides me in ways that I couldn’t even imagined.  It’s just been so exciting. 

That is one thing I love about the movie is that it shares our struggles my family and I go through, whether it be just dealing with the whole shark attack thing, losing one arm, learning how to surf again.  I think it is something that everyone can relate to in one way or another.  Whatever struggles they are going through in their life, they can kind of take it into their own perspective and take it into their life and just try to, hopefully, get hope and just know that God has a plan for them.

Dennis:  Right.  Earlier Bob kind of hinted at asking you a question that I like to ask people.  I am just curious what would you say is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in your life, Bethany?

Bethany:  I don’t know. 

Cheri:  Go on radio. 


Dennis:  Go on the radio with Dennis and Bob.

Bob:  I want to know is he tougher than Oprah?  Because you’ve been—


Bethany:  You’re both great.

Dennis:  You’re a diplomat is what you are.  I’ve seen you in action.  So, what’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

Bethany:  I don’t know.  I mean, it just depends I guess.  For me, what’s more intimidating is becoming famous, which is something that I can’t really stop.  It’s happening.  It is my way of sharing Jesus Christ with everyone.  For me, that’s more challenging than going surfing and dealing with a big wave on my head. 

I would rather go and just deal with that than just becoming famous, which has kind of been a part of my life since losing my arm.  It is not something I have strived for.  It just has happened.  I’m doing what I love.  I guess that is God’s way of giving me a ministry.

Dennis:  God has given you a big stage.

Bethany:  Yes, for sure.  It is pretty amazing.

Dennis:  I appreciated the way you answered that question because it’s interesting, a big wave, that might become one of the most courageous things I’d ever done.

Bob:  I was thinking about it because in the film there’s some scenes where there’s some big waves.  They show surfers underwater, and I think get to the top.  I’m starting to gasp for air even as I’m watching it.  That’s a real experience for surfers, isn’t it?  When there are times where you go, “Am I going to make it to the top and breathe again?”

Bethany:  Yes.  It can be very scary at times, but it is the place I’ve grown up.  I’ve grown up just getting pounded in white wash.  There’s some beaches you can go to and that’s what you just go and do for fun.  You go and get pounded by waves and hit the sand and look for shells—

Dennis:  And hopefully not the reef.

Bethany:  Yes.  I actually do have reef scars all over my body because usually the better waves are where the reef is.

Dennis:  What is—

Bethany:  But it is kind of worth it.

Dennis:  You’re five feet eleven, right?

Bethany:  Yes.

Dennis:  What is the biggest wave you’ve ever surfed?

Bethany:  What do you think, Mom?

Cheri:  Probably on Maui.  Jaws.

Bethany:  Yes.

Cheri:  That was—

Dennis:  That’s the name of—

Cheri:  —what? Twenty-footer, fifteen—

Dennis:  That’s the name of the wave?

Cheri:  Jaws.

Bethany:  Pe’ahi.  Jaws.

Dennis:  Twenty feet.

Cheri:  It’s in the movie.

Dennis:  Two stories.

Bob:  When you see a wave like that coming and your heart starts to pound, are you thinking, “This is going to be awesome!” or are you thinking, “Oh my goodness.  I’m scared to death?”


Bethany:  Well, that particular wave I had gotten that was last year; and it was pretty scary.  I was more kind of just trying not to fall because the ocean was really bumpy.  My legs were burning because you’ve got to have a lot of physical strength to do it.  So, that was pretty exciting, though.  I did end up getting pounded on that one; so, I was pretty grateful that it went smoothly.

Bob:  There’s some great surfing shots in the film.  I mean anybody who likes surfing could go just to watch the surfing footage—

Bethany:  Even if you don’t like surfing, it is so cool to just go see these girls ripping and good, beautiful waves.

Bob:  Ripping, is that where you turn back up into the wave?

Bethany:  Ripping is like performing really well and doing good surfing, you know?

Bob:  Okay. 

Dennis:  Yes.

Bob:  Just want to get the lingo down.

Bethany:  Yes. 

Dennis:  Right.  Right.  Ripping.  You know as I watched the movie and I was looking forward to asking you this question.  I think I know the answer.  I was watching the girl who played you, and she was doing almost like a 360 on these little short boards, could you really do that?

Bethany:  Well, actually, I did most of the stunts ripping for the one armed scenes; so, all the one arm footage of Bethany surfing in the movie is me. 

Bob:  So, Anna Sophia, can she surf at all?

Bethany:  Anna Sophia has definitely taken a liking to surfing.  I taught her to surf prior to the movie.  It’s such a fun sport.  It is hard not to like.

Bob:  She any good?

Bethany:  She is athletic. 

Bob:  She any good?

Bethany:  So, she is doing really good.  Yes.

Bob:  Would you say when we see her on the screen, it is a lot like you?

Bethany:  I don’t know.

Cheri:  I would definitely say.  I did so many double takes on that movie.  I go, “Whoa!  She looks like Bethany.”  You know?

Dennis:  Bethany, if you had to wrap up all that’s happened to you in your now twenty years of life and you kind of gave an essence paragraph of what God’s done in your life, how would you describe it?

Bethany:  I would say that God just started me off strong with just like good group of friends that really encouraged me.  Of course, my parents just grounded me in this faith that had to become my own and not just theirs to push upon me. 

It is something that I’ve taken up, and it’s a personal relationship with Him.  It’s between me and Him, not between my mom and dad and then through Him.  You know?

A lot of kids will just do stuff because of their parents.  It’s something that’s become more personal for me.  I can talk to God whenever I want, like wherever I want, with whoever I am.  I can just do it right here in my head, and it’s really exciting to know that God is here for me every step of the way. 

It has been a surprising journey but powerful, exciting, fun, and way better than I could have envisioned or planned.  So, I’m just grateful and thankful for all that God has done and the way that He has strengthened me through every step of the way.

Dennis:  You know as I listened you talk about that; I think, Cheri, of you and your husband and the job you did as parents to ground your daughter and your sons in their faith; so that, they’d be able to live life. 

You had no idea what kind of life was going to happen to them and what kind of issue they’d face, but you were faithful in doing that.  You’re role as parents was powerfully used by God in your kids’ lives. 

Cheri:  Right.

Dennis:  It has to be satisfying to hear her reflect and say, “My faith is not my parents’ faith.  It is now my faith.”

Cheri:  Right.  Yes.  I’ve seen that in her since she was young.  I mean, she accepted the Lord, when you were what?  Five years old?

Dennis:  You don’t realize it; but you are giving a lot of parents, right now, tremendous hope because they’re in the thick of raising kids and they’re watching their kids struggle.  I mean, you were thirteen.  For goodness sakes you had to have an attitude at points toward your parents.

Bob:  She snuck out and went surfing at night when she wasn’t supposed to.  Shame on you.  What kind of role model are you, huh? 


Bethany:  It was really fun.

Dennis:  You kind of in the movie you weren’t too tough on her either, Cheri.  I kind of expected you to get a little tougher on her. 

Bob:  To ground her after that sneaking out scene.

Cheri:  Oh, no.  I would try to get my kids to ditch school and go surfing when it was really good, but they wouldn’t. 


Bethany:  She would.

Cheri:  Noah, he would never do that. 

Dennis:  I wanted to ask you this, Bethany: can you even imagine or fathom what it would be like at thirteen to have what happened to you and not have a personal faith?  Not know God?  Not know Jesus Christ?  Not know the Scriptures?

Bethany:  Yes.  I can’t imagine.  I feel like it would be really hard.  I see people that look good and look fine on the outside that have gone through really gnarly stuff; but I don’t know how they are really actually doing. 

I think that it would have been really hard to do on just my own, in my own strength.  Yes.  Who knows where I’d be? 

Another thing that I often ponder is maybe if this didn’t happen maybe I would have chosen a different path that might not have not have glorifying God. 

I mean, I see a lot of my best friends that I was growing up with that didn’t know Jesus.  They kind of made some unwise choices, and I’m pretty excited to be able to still have love for Jesus and passion for Him, and still being able to surf.  At the same time, I’m keeping my purity and just honoring Him in everything, not just on an interview, you know?

Dennis:  Yes.  Good for you.

Bob:  Bethany, I have to tell you: we’ve been doing FamilyLife Today for more than eighteen years now; you are the first guest to use the word “gnarly” in an interview.


So, I think there is some kind of reward she should get for using gnarly—

Dennis:  I think so.  Are you going to ask for an interpretation of gnarly, too?

Bob:  Well, I know—

Dennis:  We got the one for ripping.

Bob:  I know what gnarly means.  I’m a little hipper than that. 


I have to ask you about what I think is what I think is one of the most powerful scenes in the movie.  It’s while you are in Thailand.  You went on a trip with World Vision.  This was a year or two after—

Bethany:  Yes.

Bob:  —the shark attack. Is that right?

Bethany:  Yes.

Bob:  Tell us about that experience.

Dennis:  Yes.  In fact, I wanted to ask and add to that: did that processing of seeing that poverty and just—I mean the conditions in the movie looked appalling.  Did that help you process your own loss, too?

Bethany:  In a way, I don’t know if it was to that extent.  For me, I mean, I did meet this one girl who lost her mom and sibling.  She had lost one of her parents and one of her siblings.  Of course, she was super bummed but she was actually doing pretty decent. 

I think that you don’t necessarily need a big, beautiful house and all this stuff to be happy.  That is one thing is even though they were struggling and going through hard times, they could still be happy and have strength in Jesus, you know?  You don’t have to have all this stuff.  It is really hard when you lose a family member, but when you just lose a house or whatever, you can still move on and rebuild and press on with life, you know?

Dennis:  As Barbara and I were watching Soul Surfer, I don’t know why, but I really got choked up in the scene where you were being brought home from the hospital.  There were the surf boards on the side of the road that said, “Welcome home, Bethany.  We love you” or something like that.  Did that really happen?

Bethany:  I had so much welcoming home—just everything.  First of all, it started off just in my hospital room.  It was covered in flowers.  You could barely walk in there.  It was like a jungle, which I don’t like hospitals; so, that really helped to make it more outsidey.  Then, plus all the stuffed animals and just—yes, tons of amazing stuff. 

It is really cool because people on the North Shore of Kauai are really—it’s a tight community.  They will always put signs up for people if they do well in some kind of sporting event or if they’re not doing good and they’re coming home from something.  It is really cool living on Kauai.  It’s just a nice, small community; and everyone is just pretty loving.

Dennis:  Out of all of that, what was the most powerful, emotional moment for you?  Was there a scene in, not necessarily, I’m not talking about one in the movie, but in your life?  Was there a moment, perhaps, as you came home to your family or in the midst of leaving that hospital going back where it was just really powerful?

Cheri:  Well, one scene that I saw that just broke me, you know, like I was holding it all together; and when the family sat down to eat together and they we’re going to pray and Ross didn’t know what to do because—

Bethany:  The brother.

Cheri:  They said to hold hands.  He goes—reaches to hold her hand, and he can’t.  Then, she grabs his wrist and puts it on her shoulder.  It just broke me.  I fell apart on that scene because that really happened.

Dennis:  Yes.

Cheri:  More than once.

Dennis:  Well, there are really two things that stand out in the movie.  One is what you wanted to happen which was Jesus Christ is alive in your lives; and you wanted God to get the glory.  The other thing that is so powerful is that when bad things happen to people and when a family is in place that is intact: a mom and dad who in the midst of life who are committed to each other.  A family, even in the midst of their imperfections, are committed to loving each other and pulling for each other.  Your family has done that. 

To me, it is a great reminder really of what Jesus talked about in Matthew 7, where he compared two types of houses.  Both endured wind, rain, floods; both came against the house, but one fell because it was built on the sand.  The other one stood because it was built upon the word of Jesus Christ and upon Him as the rock. 

Bethany and Cheri, I appreciate you guys sharing your story.  I’m really glad that you are helping to retake Hollywood for Christ.  I love that.  I really do.  I love seeing these actors and actresses who may not even be people of faith coming into contact with the Scripture and with people who are authentic. 

I think of Michael Orr and the story of Blindside that we’ve had the chance of telling here on FamilyLife Today.  I appreciate you guys being with us.  Thanks for being here with us on the broadcast.

Bethany:  Thank you.

Cheri:  Thank you.  You know, everywhere we go when we travel, I always look for the natural resources, treasures of that area.  I was looking for the treasure around here in Arkansas, and I found it.  It is in the people.  That’s the treasure here. 

Dennis:  Thank you.  Thanks for being with us.

Bob:  I just got to say that your movie is a pretty gnarly movie. 

Dennis:  I was super bummed when it was over. 


I was super bummed, but I’m ripping!  It may not be on a surf board, but I’m ripping.

Bob:  Yes, I don’t know how ripping you are.  I would just—

Dennis:  I did not say I was—

Bob:  Ripped.

Dennis:  —ripped. 


Bethany:  Aloha.

Bob:  Yes.  I think that is pretty obvious to anybody who’s seen his picture.  All kidding aside, the movie comes out this weekend.  We want to encourage folks to go see it.  We also wanted to let folks know that Bethany has put a devotional guide together for young girls called Soul Surfer that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  You can find out more when you go online at 

You took part, Bethany, in a project that we’re connected with called Congratulations 2011.  This is a CD and a media kit that goes to high school graduates that features twenty Contemporary Christian songs from folks like Jeremy Camp, Toby Mac, the Newsboys, LeCrae, Owl City, and others.  There is more than an hour of video with artists and speakers; and you are in that. 

Bethany:  Yes.

Bob:  This is a great gift to give to a high school graduate.  You can go to our website to order the Congratulations CD and media pack.  Along with that, we can send you a CD that Dennis and Barbara Rainey put together that’s designed for moms and dads of graduates to tell you how to make the most of the few months you still have left with your son or daughter before they head out to wherever they are heading.

Find out more, again, online at  Or give us a call 1-800- F as in “family”, L as in “life”, then the word “TODAY.”  We’ll let you know how you can get the resources you need. 

Now, I need to remind listeners that this is the last week that the special offer that we’re making available for the Love Like You Mean It 2012 Cruise is going to be available.  Friday is the last day for you to take advantage of the $200 per cabin savings on the Love Like You Mean It Cruise

This cruise is going to happen Valentine’s week 2012.  We leave on the morning the 13th of February (that is a Monday) and get back on Friday morning.  We cruise out of Miami, head to the Grand Bahama Islands, then to Nassau, and then to Great Stirrup Cay. 

Along the way, they’re will be speakers like Gary Thomas, the author of the book Sacred Marriage, and Voddie Baucham, who is featured in the Art of Marriage video conference.  In addition, we’ve got musicians, Matthew West; Country singer, Paul Overstreet is going to join us; Michael O’Brien is going to be back with us.  It is going to be a great event. 

If you want to take advantage of the $200 savings per state room; then, you need to contact us before Friday.  You can get more information when you go online at and click on the link for the Love Like You Mean It Cruise.  Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  We can answer whatever questions you have or get you in touch with the right folks who can; so, you can plan to join us next year. 

The cruise is starting to fill up already, and we’d love to have you along.  Maybe you’re celebrating a special anniversary next year.  Why don’t you make this your anniversary celebration and join us for the Love Like You Mean It Cruise Valentine’s week, February 13th through the 17th 2012.  Find out more at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.

Now, tomorrow, we want to encourage you to be back with us when Dannah Gresh is going to be here to talk about what a mom can do to guide her daughter from her tween years into her teen years.  How can you preserve her innocence and get her ready for what is coming as a mom?  We’ll talk about that with Dannah tomorrow.  Hope you can be here 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 tomorrow 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.

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