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Pro-Surfer Bethany Hamilton Inspires With Her Documentary “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable”

On July 9th, Her Campus at UCLA had the pleasure of attending the premiere of Bethany Hamilton’s documentary, Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable. Held at ArcLight Cinemas located on Sunset Boulevard, the carpet was filled with current and past pro-surfers, popular surfing brands and most importantly, the family and friends of the star, Bethany Hamilton

While watching the film, I was mesmerized by every action shot that was taken. From extreme sequences of huge waves crashing down on the earth, to the tender moments of Bethany with her new family, every scene seemed to have been filmed with extreme care and intention. I asked the director, Aaron Lieber, about the most challenging aspects of directing Unstoppable. He shared, “I think the hardest part about making a film like this is staying patient. It took six years to film and edit and be at this moment right now, so learning patience was one of the biggest challenges for me. Also, dealing with the unpredictable factors like the weather, waves and even her kids. There’s all the beautiful and crazy parts of life that just happen and get in the way but they also make for a good story.”

Lieber also mentioned a few practical ways he utilized to prepare for unpredictable occurrences. “I just learned to be prepared at all times. Whether it’s a GoPro in my pocket or a GH4 around my neck, I was just always ready to shoot at any time.” To film a documentary so personal and in-depth about Bethany Hamilton, Lieber had to form a strong bond with the pro-surfer and her family. Lieber described how he went from being a director of the film, to becoming a close friend of the family. “To make a film with someone like Bethany, you have to build that trust. So being with them all the time with them giving me that access required a lot of trust. I would always compromise on anything they may have wanted cut from the film,” explained Lieber. “At this point I’m Uncle Aaron to the kids. I’ve gotten to know Bethany and her husband well enough to the point where I see them as my own brother and sister.” 

As the time for the film screening came close, I got a chance to speak with the star of the film, Bethany Hamilton herself! She was donned in an enchanting red maxi dress, exuding so much warmth and confidence. It’s no secret that Hamilton has been through many trials and tribulations throughout her career. 


When asked how she worked through doubts and insecurities, she replied: “It’s only human to have insecurities and doubts. I think finding my passion was the key to working through those times. Surfing, my faith in God and now my new family are all things that motivate me to get up everyday and keep going. I also think surrounding yourself with a community that encourages you and lifts you up is really important. I also think that setting boundaries and holding true to things that will keep you healthy and strong is vital too.”

Hamilton also addressed college students who may be feeling doubtful in achieving their ambitions: “I think back on the times in my life where I’ve always been open to advice and coaching and looking for things that will give me the edge. I’m still so young and I have so much to learn. Working hard, seeking people that will give you solid advice and just being open to constructive criticism will really benefit you in the end. Those are things that will help you grow. Being adaptable is very important too. In the end, burnout is a real fear too, so be open to trying different things until you find the one that gets you excited!” 

Finally, Hamilton shared with us the type of legacy she wants to leave for young women who have high ambitions. “When we were naming the film ‘Unstoppable’ the more I thought, ‘Why not have a goal of living an unstoppable life?’ I’m not a perfect superwoman but I seek to be an overcomer and that leans into living an unstoppable life. Everyone goes through hard times and those are inevitable, but finding your strength in whatever pushes you is key to getting through it.” 

The premiere was a riveting experience and it was incredible getting to watch Hamilton make her debut on the big screen. Make sure to go see Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable in theaters this Friday, July 12th! 

UCLA 2020 Pamela is a Feature Writer for the UCLA Chapter of Her Campus. When Pamela isn't stressing over exams you can find her obsessing over skin care routines, reading POC-centered novels, and attempting to exercise. 
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