Sometimes life comes at you like a big ocean wave and knocks you off your feet. Elizabeth, 7, knows what that feels like, and so does her hero, professional surfer Bethany Hamilton. What they also have in common is that they both know how to get back up on their feet.
Elizabeth was undergoing treatment for stage 4 lymphoma the first time she saw the movie “Soul Surfer,” which tells the true story of young surfer Bethany Hamilton’s survival and surfing comeback from a shark attack in which she lost her left arm.
“I watched the movie and said to myself ‘that girl is so amazing!’ says Elizabeth. “When it showed real pictures of Bethany at the end of the movie, I knew I totally wanted to meet this awesome girl!”
Elizabeth got her wish.
She and her family flew to Hawaii – “I was like, oh my gosh, I want to live here already!”
Things only got more exciting when she actually met Bethany in person. The normally outgoing and talkative 7-year-old was struck speechless.
“I said ‘Hi,’ and then couldn’t say another word at first!” laughs Elizabeth. “She was even nicer than I expected and she inspires me to be strong. She told me it really doesn’t matter what you look like – whether you’re missing an arm or your hair, you are still beautiful.”
Bethany took Elizabeth on a picnic near the beach and then they balanced together on Bethany’s board in the ocean surf. Elizabeth had never even been on a surfboard before, but was quickly hooked.
Despite the fact that her family lives in the land-locked desert, she has decided she wants to be a professional surfer like Bethany and diligently practices in the family pool and a nearby lake on the blue surfboard she got for Christmas.
“I’ve seen Soul Surfer too many times now to count,” says Elizabeth. “It gave me strength when I needed it. In person, Bethany was as awesome as in the movie!”