Surfer is a delightful, inspirational family film for all
ages. Based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a champion junior
surfer, the movie chronicles her recovery from the loss of an arm after
a potentially fatal shark attack when she was just thirteen years old.
But through faith, hard work, and perseverance, she has recovered
stronger than ever, winning her first national title just one year
after the attack. Today, she is a professional women’s surfer who holds
numerous titles and is an inspiration to many.
At first I was reluctant to see
the movie because of my enormous dislike for sharks with large teeth
and an appetite for attractive teenage girls in bikinis. Having grown
up on the beaches of North Carolina, I spent many summers in the ocean,
baking in the sun and pickling myself in the salt water. Occasionally,
we would feel something swim past us, or step on something sharp and
biting, and even encounter a stinging jellyfish from time to time, but
there was no real concern for our safety, except for an unusually
strong undertow that might suck a swimmer out to sea.
However, if you are like me and
don’t want to be traumatized by another Hollywood rendition of a shark
attack, rest easy, because the Soul Surfer
filmmakers did an excellent job of staging the scene in a way that kept
the viewers on the edge of their seats, yet didn’t have a high yuck or
wince factor. Everything happened very fast and the quick reaction and
fast-thinking of Bethany’s colleagues is what saved her life.
I especially liked the
performances from the mother, played by Helen Hunt, and the dad, Dennis
Quaid, seeing that they each displayed nurturing and protective
qualities that were touching and heart-wrenching. Her two brothers
manifested anger at the cruel blow life had thrown their way, and even
Bethany’s best friend struggled with the guilt for having escaped harm
and being blessed to live out a “normal life.” The bottom line—it was
great to see the many different reactions to such a horrific tragedy.
the most moving reaction is
that of Bethany, played by AnnaSophia Robb. When asked in a
documentary if she would continue
with the sport, she looked at the
interviewer with dismay and answered, “Oh, I’m going to surf!” And she
did. She was
back in the water just one month after the attack. One of
my favorite lines from the film is when her best friend asks her if she
is afraid to surf, and her response is, “I’m too afraid not
from her spiritual leader, played by Carrie Underwood, and a touching
mission trip to help tsunami victims are tender, teachable moments that
further her tenacity and determination to succeed when others have
written her off. It is when she learns that there is something greater
in life than surfing that she is able to go back into the water and
win. She no longer surfs to secure a championship but surfs because it
is what she loves. Riding the waves is who she is—it is a gift God has
given her, and she uses it to glorify Him.
In those dark moments right
after the attack, when she fights the natural temptation to give up,
her parents are there for her, holding on to the hope that she will
make it through. While Mom gives love and affection, Dad helps alter
her surfing technique and even designs a special handle on her board to
assist in the maneuvering of waves, so that when she is ready to
compete again, all is prepared. Isn’t that just like a dad?
He understands that if she can
make it through this trial, she can make it through anything. What a
valuable lesson this is for us parents as we help our kids maneuver
through life. As this wonderful movie shows, our trials may reveal the
weakness in our flesh, but then ultimately, the spirit in us rises up
and gives us strength so that we can overcome and be victorious.
Enjoy the wonderful
cinematography, the setting and story, the beauty and majesty of the
ocean, and the timeless, true grit of a little girl who refuses to
quit. You and your entire family won’t be disappointed.