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Soul Surfer – The real Bethany Hamilton and AnnaSophia Robb who plays her

Soul Surfer - The real Bethany Hamilton and AnnaSophia Robb
The real Bethany Hamilton and AnnaSophia Robb who plays her in the film © 2011 FilmDistrict

On October 31, 2003, 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton went surfing with her best friend Alana. That day changed her life forever, when she lost her arm in a shark attack. Her determination to boldly return to the water and continue to surf competitively is told in the new movie Soul Surfer

AnnaSophia Robb has been acting most of her young life, being featured in such movies as Because of Winn-Dixie, The Reaping, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,Bridge to Terabithia and her new movie, portraying Bethany Hamilton in Soul Surfer.

AnnaSophia and Bethany, now 21, spoke with us together about the film and bringing the latter’s inspirational tale to the screen.

How long was your training to learn how to surf?

Soul Surfer - AnnaSophia Robb
Poster showing Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) © 2011 FilmDistrict

AnnaSophia: I had six weeks of pre-production where I trained, and then I had two weeks back home, swimming and doing a core workout. It was like eight weeks of training, I guess.

I was so excited to get out in the water and learn. But then I felt terrified because those little baby waves looked so bit to me! I just thought to myself, ‘If Bethany could face her fears after the shark attack, I can face this.’ Now that I’ve gotten past that, I find that there is something really peaceful and beautiful about surfing.

Bethany, I’ve read that you said that you think sharks are beautiful. Even after this, you still think they’re beautiful?

Bethany: Yeah, definitely. They’re such a special creature. They’re not always vicious and scary like they’re played off to be. It’s not that common for shark attacks. We’re going into their home and we’re invading their privacy.

After this incident I would have been terrified to go back into the ocean. You never seemed to have any fear about going back, why do you think that is?

Bethany: Fear is something that can really hold us all back from different things in life. It’s important to notice what your fears are and try to conquer them. I don’t know if I was that conscious about my fear of sharks or not, but my passion for surfing outweighed my fear of sharks.

I think passion is something that’s more powerful than even love; it’s something that you’re not willing to let go and you’ll work really hard to make sure that stays a part of your life.

AnnaSophia, can you talk about doing the role after the shark attack when you could only use one arm and hand?

AnnaSophia: There were certain things that were hard to do. One thing I so admire about [Bethany], she just grabs life. She doesn’t wait for other people to do stuff for her, she just does it herself.

If it takes a little bit of figuring out to do, then she figures it out and if she needs help, then she’s not ashamed to ask for help. I think that’s a really good way to live life. [She looks over at Bethany] But I guess you’re just comfortable with how you are, and that’s another layer that we put into the story, getting that sense of security.

What I liked about it was in the movie, when AnnaSophia as you was dropping things, she didn’t get angry and frustrated, which a lot of people would do.

Soul Surfer - AnnaSophia Robb
Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) © 2011 FilmDistrict

Bethany: Sometimes I actually do get frustrated, because sometimes you just want to do things right. One thing I’ve learned to do is if I’m struggling with something, my family’s right here to help me. All I have to do is ask them.

I think we all forget to talk about what we’re going through and ask people for help when we’re struggling with something. We need to be a friend to each other and help each other with different things; whether it be something physical or just something inside that you’re going through, you’ve got to be able to open up.

What’s the beauty of surfing?

AnnaSophia: I [didn’t] really understand it before at all. Surfing is something I just crave; I wish I was out there right now. Even if I’m just sitting on a board or something, because you forget about everything else that’s going on, on land. You’re unreachable, you’re untouched, you’re out in this place made by God.

You have to be really in the moment because you have to be aware of the waves that are behind you or in front of you, you have to be aware of where your position is, and your main goal is to catch a wave, it’s to look for a perfect wave. Once you catch that, it’s just this exhilarating feeling of freedom, but it’s something bigger than yourself that’s just surging and you’re pushing through.

Bethany: Surfing is so unique and it’s something that no matter what level you are, you can go and have fun, and you can pick and choose the waves that you want to surf. Every time you go out it’s always different and unique, and you can bring a different friend and just go and have fun and not worry about everything else.

It’s almost like a place you can just de-stress. Sometimes in my case, I stress out because it’s my career at the same time, but I can always separate from my career and just go and have an enjoyable session. My favorite thing is being creative on waves; it’s like an art form.

You can do whatever you want on that wave if you work hard at it and just have fun out there.