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How Accurate Is Soul Surfer?

Directed by Sean McNamara, 2011's biopic film "Soul Surfer" centers on the true story of Bethany Hamilton who was only 13-years-old when a shark tore her left arm off as she was surfing in Hawaii in 2003. AnnaSophia Robb plays Hamilton, the champion surfer whose professional surfing career is seemingly cut short after her horrific, near-death attack. Robb impressively carries the film alongside the rest of the cast, which includes Helen Hunt (Cheri Hamilton), Dennis Quaid (Tom Hamilton), Kevin Sorbo (Holt Blanchard), and Lorraine Nicholson (Alana Blanchard).

"Soul Surfer" is based on Hamilton's autobiographical book Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. Per TheCinemaholic, McNamara's film is a mostly faithful and accurate adaptation of the real events that occurred in Hamilton's life. As an incredible feat of the human spirit, Hamilton learned how to surf with one arm and went on to become an inspirational American hero. That said, some events were altered slightly for dramatic purposes.

While mostly accurate, some events were dramatically altered

Several small details from real life were changed in "Soul Surfer" for dramatic effect. For example, Bethany Hamilton's heart completely stopped beating in the film due to the immense amount of blood that she lost after being attacked. In reality, Hamilton's heart didn't stop, but she did lose over 60% of her blood, resulting in hypovolemic shock (via The New York Times). Another change is that Hamilton's father remarks that the bite from her surfboard matches the mouth of the shark. In reality, a family of fishermen found and killed a shark about a mile away from the site of the attack, and were the ones to suspect that it was the same shark that bit Hamilton. The shark had remnants of a surfboard in its mouth and, after showing investigators, it was confirmed that the measurements from the shark's mouth matched the sizable bite mark from Hamilton's board.

It is confirmed true that Hamilton's father, Tom, was about to get surgery the same morning at the Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Kauai in the very same room that his daughter would be rushed into for surgery (via HistoryvsHollywood). And it's also true that during the day of the attack, Hamilton decided to go to North Shore's Tunnels Beach with her mom, Cheri, because the conditions were better. While at Tunnels, Hamilton's friend, Alana Blanchard, her dad, Byron, and her brother, Holt, met them there. Cheri ended up leaving the beach and the four of them paddled out into the water. 

While "Soul Surfer" is not a perfectly accurate movie, Hamilton and her family had a lot of say about what parts of her story managed to make it into the final product, making it very true to life overall. According to ESPN, Hamilton did all of her own surfing stunts during the second half of the film and also helped cast Robb to portray her.