Laird Hamilton is passed out in the seat next to me. He’s snoring. We’re weaving through scenic outposts in New Zealand while on location for the Ultimate Waterman, a competition custom tailored for Laird, and we’re nodding at each other as if to silently say: “Laird sleeps.”
He just got off a plane from Kauai by way of Alaska. There might have been another very interesting stopover, but I can’t remember. Jetlag took hold (as it does), and between five different interview obligations straight off the plane in Auckland, he’s having trouble indulging the small talk. We already talked about flotation devices at the Eddie. (Safety is good, he says.) We talked about Jaws. (He’s been trying to keep away this winter. Bit of a circus, no?) We talked foilboarding. (Despite my hankering, probably not many people will get to try it, myself included.) Touched on diet and nutrition. (“A hot fire burns all fuel.”) And the big guy is pooped.
Just a few hours earlier we sat on the beach at Piha in front of Lyon’s Rock (same name and spelling as his brother, he says, so he sends him a pic after we figure out how to turn off iPhone motion picture…stupid iPhones), and at our urging, Laird spilled life philosophy.
Aside from Laird’s matter-of-fact approach to collecting superhuman moments, one thing that fascinates me is Mr. Hamilton’s impressive mound of haters. There’s a t-shirt line called “Blame Laird.” Any time we publish anything with Laird Hamilton’s name in the headline, an outspoken segment of our readers unsheathes swords and stab violently on cue. Perhaps it’s “core surfers” obsession with understatement and a flavor d’jour aesthetic that Laird obtusely ignores. Perhaps it’s a golf surfboard. Or an Amex commercial? Or the fact that physically he more closely resembles a football player than a slinky surfer. Maybe that’s intimidating. Maybe people don’t know he’s not actually Lance Burkhart.
But whatever it is, it’s real, and I’d argue that the sentiment has a lot more to do with its purveyors and surf culture’s vibrant insecurities more than it does with him. Because he doesn’t care. Laird’s doing Laird. And I sure as hell respect that. Anyone can throw snark and bitterness at a public figure. Anyone. Only one man can surf a wave singularly known as “The Millennium Wave.”
Laird: 1, Haters: 0.
I think people forget that he’s a human. Outside of foil boarding open ocean waves, consulting films like Point Break on water safety, and seeking out massive swells around the planet – he’s a 52-year-old guy. He walks with an unmistakeable limp, no doubt a result of wounds suffered on the battlefield. He’s raising his kids, and he said he’s simultaneously training to be ready for the earth. That’s a hell of a thing to train for, especially while growing a family.
But right now, he’s just snoring loudly in the seat next to me.
Get to know Laird better in our latest (HEADSPACE) above.