Bethany Hamilton’s inspiring story has captured the imagination of millions who have been moved by her unbreakable spirit in the face of adversity.
The American surfer inspired people across the globe when she returned to the sport she loved, despite the loss of her left arm in a shark attack. Her following has continued to grow because of her subsequent success, and recently, her 2019 documentary, Unstoppable, which is currently streaming on Netflix.
Rich Franklin is also no stranger to adversity. He battled for acceptance and success to become recognized as the best middleweight mixed martial artist in the world as UFC Champion, before becoming Vice President of the world’s largest martial arts organization, ONE Championship.
The hall-of-fame athlete has also encountered many fascinating characters during his career, particularly as the host of Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series, and his new video podcast, Franklin Speaking, which takes the audience on a deep dive as he and co-host Jonathan Fong discover their guests’ stories.
Bethany is among the most colorful and inspiring characters Rich has met. After she first got on a board aged 8, she was a precocious talent in the surfing world who gained her first sponsor just a year later. However, aged 13, a shark took her arm when she was out surfing with a friend.
Losing a limb, particularly at such a young age, would have made most ordinary people give up on their dreams of surfing entirely. But despite such a traumatic ordeal, Bethany was back among the waves just a month later and went on to win competitions all over the world.
She also appeared everywhere from Oprah to Ellen and wowed viewers with her exceptional strength of will. Soon, Bethany evolved from being seen as an unfortunate victim into an inspirational role model.
At times, however, being in the limelight comes at a cost. Having made the transformation from the world of education to mixed martial arts, Rich can relate to the prospect of having to adjust to a sudden wave of attention, and asked about that on the show.
“How did you manage? Especially at that age, because I had trouble with this. I used to be a high school teacher and, what seemed like overnight, my life turned into something where people were standing in line for autographs. How did you manage this at the age of 13?”
Bethany’s responses offered a glimpse into just how difficult it was for her to deal will so much attention at such a tender age.
“It took me a long time to get to a place where I was more accepting of it. The only thing that kept me sane was having good friends and surfing. I think over time, I just saw the beauty in storytelling, and sharing my life was really impactful, and I saw the value of that. I wanted to let that be a part of my life.”
The 30-year-old is certainly no stranger to big challenges. There was one, in particular, which left Rich in awe as he quizzed her about surfing ‘Jaws’ in Maui, which is home to some of the biggest waves in the world.
‘’The wave could literally take out a house. It’s just so enormous and powerful with the type of waves that are death-defying. I’ve always had a drive for bigger surf, even when I was younger. I was always chasing bigger waves than my peers.”
Bethany, now a mother of two, is a multiple award-winner, has had a film and numerous documentaries made about her inspirational life story, and has published eight books. Her latest venture is an online course entitled Unstoppable Year, which she broke down to Rich and Jonathan.
“I’m taking all of the things I’ve learned along the way or the things I’ve done that have empowered me to overcome and kind of live a somewhat unstoppable life. I’m not perfect, but kind of carrying on life with that unstoppable feeling and knowing that we can overcome when tough stuff comes our way, we can be a blessing to others. We can live thoughtfully and we can change our mindset from negative to positive. Every little choice we make can have a huge impact on our future. We’re packaging that into something really rad and life-changing for people. It really is changing people’s lives, so it’s super fun to be a part of.”
The way Bethany tackles conquering adversity and crushing extraordinary challenges impressed Rich, and their chat offered a fascinating look at how far a strong mindset can get you.
Though she was one of the first guests on the show, her story has set a high bar for what’s to come in the future.