Laird Hamilton Interview with LineUp

Posted: Oct 05, 2009

Nobody embodies the ideal of a pure waterman quite like Laird Hamilton. His life began as it should’ve, in the water. Laird’s mother gave birth to him in a bathysphere, ensuring that the first experience he had in this world would be aquatic. Nobody embodies the ideal of a pure waterman quite like Laird Hamilton. His life began as it should’ve, in the water. Laird’s mother gave birth to him in a bathysphere, ensuring that the first experience he had in this world would be aquatic. Even people that know little about surfing still know the iconic big wave madman, whether it is for his All-American mug that lands him Cool Water and American Express ads in media outlets around the globe, his frequent hosting gigs on dangerous sporting shows or as the husband of model, women’s beach volleyball player and all around hottie, Gabrielle Reece. But those that know surfing hold Laird in a realm of respect reserved only for the elite. He has stayed loyal to one sponsor, Oxbow, his entire career when he could name his price with anyone. Laird Hamilton has towed in to mountains of water that most would consider a death sentence and surfed away looking cool and composed. He has innovated surfing equipment and elevated the sport without ever bowing to the pressures to join the world tour, and he has engaged in a never ending quest to excel at all things water. From paddleboarding between islands to riding a homemade hydroplane surfboard down 20 foot faces; there seems to be no limit to what the man can do on or in the water.

LineUp – Who has been the single biggest influence in your life?
Laird Hamilton – The single biggest influence in my life would have to be my mother. She gave me the confidence to believe in myself. And she gave me the foundation of good morals.

LineUp – With the advent of the APT World Tour Tow-In Surfing Circuit creating contests out of the sport you practically invented and your open condemnation of competitive surfing, do you ever see yourself going after the $75,000 purse or joining the ATP?
LH – No, I surf because I love it, and I‘ll do whatever it takes to keep surfing but contests aren’t one of them.

LineUp – With other surfers going after and winning contests like the Billabong XXL, do you ever feel like you have anything to prove?
LH – I don’t need a title to enjoy the feeling of achievement that big waves bring me.

LineUp – Are you the best big wave surfer of all time?
LH – I wouldn’t even want to begin to figure out how to figure that out.

LineUp – Greg Noll says that after he surfed a 35 foot wave at Makaha in 1969 that something inside him was satisfied and he didn’t have to do it anymore. Have you ever felt that sense of release?
LH – I have felt a sense of release riding a wave for the first time, not that I wouldn’t do it again, but that I was actually able to do it period.

LineUp – With all the big wave surfing you’ve done, do you still find joy in surfing on a “normal” day or do you consider it flat under 20 feet? LH -No. I continue to find ways to enjoy the ocean on the smallest of days in the most fun of ways! Like stand up paddling, body surfing and just enjoying being in the water with all of its sea life.

LineUp – My wife gets nervous when I paddle out into head high surf, do those around you ever ask you to scale back your charge to surf bigger waves?
LH – No, they don’t because they believe in the way in which I go about my life. I’m courageous not stupid.

LineUp – We all know “the wave” at Teahupoo- do you have a favorite single wave of all time?
LH – All I’ll say about Teahupoo is, “you can’t do that twice,” but I have many memories of moments in the ocean that will last all of my life.

LineUp – Is there a physical limit to the size of wave that can be surfed?
LH – There is no limit other than the conditions allowance. Especially with the conception of modern day tow surfing.

LineUp – On a lighter note- I recently found my copy of North Shore from the mid 1980’s. Lance Burkhart seems to be the anti-Laird Hamilton and stands for everything you protest- my kids had a hard time believing it was you. Do you ever look back at that and wonder what you were thinking?
LH – It’s a movie and I was 18! I sometimes have to remind people it was a part not a person! Shows how good of an actor I am. (Laughs)

LineUp – Greg Noll said in his support of tow-in surfing “I would have gotten shot out of an elephant’s ass if it would get me down a bigger wave.” Do you foresee any technological advances that will propel the sport forward?
LH – They are yet to be known to me at this point other than trying to improve our skill and equipment or using a helicopter. We’re just constantly researching and developing.

LineUp – To your fans you are so much more than a surfer, you are an icon, a role model, a master, an artist and a phenom- how can your fans connect with you?
LH – I’m just human like every one else, and I have the daily burdens like every one else; eating, sleeping, relationships, we have our work cut out for us.

LineUp – You are known as an all around waterman, do you think young surfers respect all aspects of the ocean like people like you and Gerry Lopez seem to? LH – I think there are many younger waterman that do, there are many that don’t. It’s always been like that. In the long run to really survive you have to respect it, which means fear it.

LineUp – You give your name and time to charity events seemingly more readily than sponsorships; what charities are close to your heart? And what can our readers do to help?
LH – Autism – which is an autism documentary, Heal the Bay, SurfAid International, Big Brothers – Big Sisters, Healing with Arts.

LineUp – Is there anything out there you have not yet conquered but would like to?
LH – I don’t look at any of the experiences that I’ve had as conquering, as much as participating in unique moments, and I look forward to other unique moments that are yet to occur.

LineUp – You are on par with the elite athletes of the world, are there other athletes you admire?
LH – I admire any athlete that has dedicated their life to their passion, whether they have been compensated or awarded for it and continue to do it regardless.

LineUp – Without going into details, have you ever seriously feared for your life on a wave?
LH – Yes.