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‘I don’t need easy, I just need possible’

April 18, 2011
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor ( , The Herald-Star

For the most part, movie critics are not in love with "Soul Surfer," the story of Bethany Hamilton's life after having her left arm torn off from a shark attack.

But, who needs critics?

They are looking at this movie from the wrong angle.

I understand it's not 100 percent accurate from the book she wrote of the same name. After all, it's Hollywood.

But, the message is the same and it's a message that critics just don't get.

One message is that I can actually take my family, including my in-laws, to see the movie and I didn't have to worry about any gratuitous violence, sex, language or nudity or anything I can't sit and watch with my 17-year-old daughter.

Old fashioned?

Yep - and proud of it.

The MPAA rating is PG for the intense shark attack sequence and some thematic material. That thematic material is God.

"This is the first movie I've ever been involved in, and what really counts is what ends up on the screen," Bethany's father Tom Hamilton told FOX411. "And we are absolutely thrilled with the way the film turned out, and the wonderful way it portrays Bethany's and our family's story and faith."

It is a movie that everyone should go and see, sports teams included.

It is a movie that can really teach anyone with a terrible attitude about life and how others struggle.

On Halloween 2003, 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark surfing off Kauai's North Shore. She lost more than 60 percent of her blood.

She was back in the water one month after the attack.

One month.

Two months later she placed fifth in the in her first competition after the attack.


A little over a year after the attack she won the Explorer Women's division of the 2005 NSSA National Championships - her first national title.


Don't want to run the stadium stairs that one last time, trying learning how to push up on a surfboard without a left arm (I have never surfed, but it sure didn't look easy in the movie).

This is a movie that parallels life and sports at every wave.

An excerpt from the book:

I had no warning at all; not even the slightest hint of danger on the horizon. The waves were small and inconsistent, and I was just kind of rolling along with them, relaxing on my board with my left arm dangling in the cool water. I remember thinking, "I hope the surf picks up soon ..."

That's all it took: a split second. I felt a lot of pressure and a couple of lightning fast tugs. Then I watched in shock as the water around me turned bright red. Somehow, I stayed calm. My left arm was gone almost to the armpit, along with a huge crescent-shaped chunk of my red, white and blue surfboard...

I remember most clearly what the Kauai paramedic said to me in the ambulance: He spoke softly and held my hand as we were pulling out of the beach parking lot. He whispered in my ear, "God will never leave you or forsake you."

He was right.

I fully get that not everyone who reads this column believes in God.

But, I believe that everyone who reads this column is part of a team, whether it is in a family, church, work, high school or any youth group.

That's where this movie really hits home.

Hamilton does not live without the help of her team that day - her brother, her best friend Alana and Alana's dad.

She was eventually passed like a baton to another team - the paramedics, who then passed her to a team of nurses and doctors who kept her alive.

She had a team at home - mom and dad and two brothers - who helped her learn to do regular things all over again.

They were they to help her when she fell, read the word of God with her, cry with her, laugh with her and treat her like another member of the family.

She had another family with the church youth group, the leader played by Carrie Underwood in the movie.

Hamilton also had a team of competitors who, in the long run, didn't care that she was without a left arm. She was a competitor and they wanted to beat her.

I highly doubt they felt sorry for her in the water.

Competition, in the end, at this level, is about winning - especially when your goal is to be a professional surfer, which she is now.

"I don't need easy, I just need possible."

We face easy vs. possible every day.

It's possible to win every game, but it's not easy.

It's possible to lose every game, but it's not easy.

It's possible to run a four-minute mile, but it's not easy.

It's possible to pitch a perfect game, but it's not easy.

It's possible to become a professional athlete, but it's not easy.

It's possible to become the president, but it's not easy.

It's possible to become a state champion, but it's not easy.

Bethany's possible is a lot different than our possible.

Would Bethany be as good of a surfer today if what happened had not happened?

She obviously found a new level of herself because of the attack.

We all can find a new level of ourselves without being attacked by a tiger shark.

But, do we?

"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." - Deuteronomy 31:6

Doors have been opened for Hamilton because of what happened that Halloween morning.

"What happened to her could be seen as the worst thing that could ever, ever happen to someone, but you honestly get the feeling she wouldn't change a thing," Underwood said about Bethany. "She doesn't sit around saying 'why me?' She uses what happened to her to go out and talk to people."

Hamilton said in an interview with CBN, "We never know what life brings. Maybe there are some rough times for you now or in the future. I think that if you seek God first and focus on Him, you'll be able to endure those struggles and hardships."

She is a role model.

So are we.

High school athletes have younger athletes looking at them all the time, watching what they do, what they say and how they do it and say it.

We have a responsibility every day to be our best and better than the day before.

It's not easy, but it's possible.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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