HOW ADVERSITY SHAPED ME
[NOTE: This article is reposted with Bethany’s permission in August 2019. Check local movie listings to see where her new movie, UNSTOPPABLE is playing near you, and please visit Bethanyhamilton.com for more.]
Ten years ago, I was facing a major personal challenge. Not one you might expect though. It’s actually something I’ve never really talked about.
Ten years ago, I was facing a major personal challenge: I was competing in surfing full-time, traveling the world on the World Surfing League’s (then called the Association of Surfing Professionals) Women’s Qualifying Series (WQS). Let me tell you, doing surf competitions is a grind! Surfers on the WQS travel all over the world on their own dime, or ideally supported by sponsors. Sometimes the surf conditions are great; other times they are terrible and you’re struggling to find an opportunity to showcase your abilities. That was me. Except I was doing it with one arm.
As a one-armed surfer, I had to be creative with my heat strategies, including where I sit in the lineup, which types of waves I paddle for, etc. In bigger, powerful waves I usually did well, but in smaller, less powerful “mushy” waves, or in waters with strong currents I struggled. Still, I did this grind for several years and came close to qualifying for the Women’s World Tour. In fact, two years in a row I missed qualification by only a few points! Coming so close was exciting, but the reality that close doesn’t mean making it was mentally defeating. I began to struggle to stay motivated. On top of that, Soul Surfer was in production, which meant I was definitely not able to focus solely on surfing.
How did I cope? I ended up realizing I needed to take a different path, a new direction. I took my sights off a singular prize and shifted to a view that was open to multiple endeavors. I pursued other unique opportunities like motivational speaking and chose the path of a free-surfer instead of continuing the competitive circuit. As a free-surfer, I participated in occasional surf competitions, but mostly I focused on enjoying amazing waves. Waves that were best suited for my strengths and abilities as a surfer. Waves where I could really shine.
I’m really thankful for my sponsors, like Rip Curl, who continued supporting my surfing career through this time. A few years into this new journey, I met Adam and we got married!
After Adam and I came together as a team, he helped me get back to focusing on my surfing and being more intentional with my followers (that’s you!). We decided to again refocus, but this time to dig back into my surfing goals. Not only was it a great excuse to travel the world together and surf the best waves, but it was an opportunity to showcase the caliber of my surfing.
Next came the fun idea to collaborate with filmmaker Aaron Lieber to make a short surf documentary – we’d highlight me, surfing in high performance and big waves. Our fun idea became a full-length feature film documentary, BETHANY HAMILTON: UNSTOPPABLE, which is in limited theaters around the USA and Canada right now! Haha, amazing how new, sometimes unexpected directions kept happening in my life. But I stayed open and look what came of our fun idea!
Many of you have followed my story over the years and have supported me along the way. You may feel like you know me, from the movie Soul Surfer or from my social media channels; but this film is unique in how it captures the real me, up close and personal! UNSTOPPABLE shares the otherwise behind the scenes moments and thoughts. It chronicles the process of working toward my goals and some of the struggles I’ve faced along the way; the ups and downs and the big life changes… like becoming a mom! Honestly, I’m blown away that the film has this opportunity to be IN THEATERS across the USA and beyond! So, so cool.
Look, we’re all aware that adversity can make life hard and stretch us mentally, emotionally, and physically. But I like to think of adversity as an opportunity to learn and grow. I’ve had several of those moments along my life journey and I’m sure you’ve had at least one or more as well. In these moments, I want to encourage you to ask yourself and evaluate:
- How can I cope with the challenges that life throws at me?
- How can I focus in on the things that matter to me?
- How can I nurture and grow proper relationships with those around me?
When I took a moment to consider these questions and dared to answer honestly, I learned that in the feelings of defeat there was an opportunity waiting… a chance for a new direction. A chance to shift my perspective, refocus, and more clearly identify my strengths and passions.
This freed me up to walk through the doors God led me to, and thank goodness because now I get to encourage so many of you as you experience challenges in your own lives.
So what’s next? Well, it continues to be a dream of mine to use my life and my story to bring you inspiration and hope. In doing this, I’ve learned about the power of being intentional in my approach to meeting your needs, but more than that I’ve dreamed of creating something powerful, sustainable, and tangible so that you can join me in living a life of overcoming. Does anyone feel another fun idea coming on? Haha, YES, and it’s called the Unstoppable Year online course.
Built on a foundation of finding hope and discovering true identity, the Unstoppable Year content is all about how we can rise up to challenges, overcome obstacles, deal with fears, face our doubts and much more! During the Unstoppable Year, I will be equipping you in meaningful ways through topical videos, actionable steps, live Q&A’s, and conversations with other amazing people that I respect and I’m sure you’ll love.
I am really looking forward to sharing these powerful concepts with you so that you can live a life that is grounded, filled with joy and intention, and so that you can live unstoppable too… because I believe challenges are just opportunities in disguise, new directions waiting to be explored.
Let’s be unstoppable!