Revealed: Laird’s secret unlocked!

"Live a maximum life whatever that means..."

The Kennedy family is an American institution. The closest thing this country has to royalty with those magnificent, broad east coast accents, consolidated power and heart-wrenching tragedies. They can do whatever they want and apparently one of them wanted to make a very serious documentary about Laird Hamilton that premiers at the Sundance Film Festival!

Rory Kennedy is the daughter of Robert, an activist and documentarian. She has won primetime Emmys etc. But Laird! Who wouldn’t be turned on by Laird! Let’s read about this affair of the heart/mind in the Salt Lake Tribune!

At 52, Laird Hamilton has more than earned the right to reflect after a life full of risks taken and enormous waves surfed.

But to do so would betray his very nature as an innovator and big-wave riding legend — still pushing the bar as far as it will go on the water and in his life on dry land.

“Sometimes I just shake my head when I think about when I was young and reckless, now I’m just older,” he says with a deep laugh.

Hamilton, the subject of the Sundance documentary “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton,” has had his life well-chronicled by surf films to this point, but director Rory Kennedy took a new approach.

“The surfing aspect was something I wanted to embrace, but ultimately, I was less interested in making a film about surfing. I’m only so interested in it, frankly,” Kennedy said. “What I am interested in is the character and what are the qualities in Laird — whether you’re interested in politics or business or sports — just being the best in whatever your pursuit is, what’s the difference?”

Hamilton has eschewed surfing competitions his whole life in favor of seeking his own thrills and fulfillment, but has pushed the sport forward by popularizing tow-in surfing, standup paddleboard surfing and foil boarding to take on much larger waves farther from the shore.

“I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone else who has changed the sport so significantly in the last 50 years,” Kennedy said.

The director admits Hamilton was confused by her approach at first — questioning why she asked him to sit down and answer interview questions over a 12-hour period rather than film him on the water like everyone else — but that he came around and threw his whole support behind the project.

“There’s an opportunity to tell a bigger story and it’s not a surf film. A lot of what I’ve been able to do transcends surfing and is more about life,” Hamilton said. “I feel this is a larger representation of that message and that concept.”

Hamilton’s biggest risk and biggest contribution to surfing lore came simultaneously on Aug. 17, 2000 — his now-legendary ride of the “Millennium Wave” off the coast of Teahupoo, Tahiti.

But with nearly 17 years of hindsight, he says the wave serves as a reference point and a formula for what comes next rather than standing as a crowning achievement.

“It was the unknown, the thing that you’d only thought was in cartoons and then it was real and it happened. It reminds you that it can happen again and that’s really the exciting and interesting part,” Hamilton says. “I use that situation as a reference for other situations since then and others that haven’t come yet.”

That’s the benefit of telling Hamilton’s story now, Kennedy says, in a pursuit of “bigger and better” that simultaneously seems never-ending, but with plenty of past narrative punch — from a rough childhood to vilification from the surfing community to his success and varied interests today.

“He is somebody who lives in the present, is very forward-thinking and continuing to try and push himself and the sport in new and innovative ways,” Kennedy said. “So, sitting back and looking at your life isn’t really where his energy is. I think that speaks to part of why he is the person he is.”

The director hopes audiences grasp Hamilton as a “flawed hero,” while the self-described “Waterman” said he hopes it’ll encourage viewers to always push forward, embrace vulnerability and never “let memories be bigger than dreams.”

“It’s meant to inspire people to do as the film title is to catch every wave. That kind of sums it up in a way, to catch every opportunity, every moment,” Hamilton said.

“Live a maximum life whatever that means to you given what your surroundings and your circumstances are.”

Are you inspired?

Tow, SUP and foil 4 life!

The Shore according to Justin Jay!

Dazzling NYC portraitist soaks the seven mile miracle…

There’s photos and there’s photos. Am I right?

Sometimes y’just snatch a moment out of thin air with your phone, other times it’s a work of art and high-end glass. Justin Jay, a 42-year-old photographer from New York city’s Lower East Side, gives us a little of both: the eye of a master portraitist mixed with a Nikon film camera, ancient manual-focus 35mm prime affixed to the beak.

“In Hawaii I’ve found that having more equipment just slows down the workflow,” says Justin. “If there’s an amazing interaction happening that I want to capture, I gotta be able to snap the exact instant that I want. Seconds matter. Having a massive-sized file shot on a medium format camera is useless if you miss the moment.”

Here, a drip-feed of Justin’s work from December, 2016.

(And see more of Justin’s work, including reportage featuring the biggest names in music here, and here.)

Part one, The Daddy Loves Jasper Jay Project. 

“It was a strange year for me on the North Shore,” says Justin. “Usually by the second week of the Pipe waiting period, the comp has gotten well under way. There were even a few times in recent years that the contest actually ran so early that the circus had entirely left town by Dec 15th and I was left to try and fill the days before my flight left by jumping Waimea rock and taking landscape photos.

“This season, the weather and waves were pretty crappy until the final moments of the Pipe widow. I had a son this year who was back in NYC with my wife, so simply changing my ticket and staying another week really wasn’t an option. My focus when I’m on the North Shore is to capture candid moments that tell a story. Even though I don’t really shoot action or ‘surfing’, when there is no surf, it’s bizarre how empty the North Shore becomes. It’s not like all of the figures that would normally be in the lineup are instead fraternizing on the team house lawns and hanging out. When the watering hole is dry, the animals retreat and things are exceptionally quiet. No moments to be captured. Nobody standing around shit-talking and critiquing waves ridden. No history to be documented.

“I tried to stay busy by working on a personal project for my son Jasper who was about to turn one. Under normal circumstances, a lone North Shore luminary simply walking the bike path or buying eggs at Foodland wouldn’t necessarily be a ripe opportunity for a captivating picture. Candid moments need to have context and a narrative. So this year I chose to shoot a project of people holding a sign wishing Jasper happy birthday. The pictures were all shot spontaneously with minimal direction given, just a quick strike mission with existing backgrounds and ambient lighting. Because of the limited time and prep that I had to nail each shot, individually, the images weren’t necessarily the most compelling portraits I’ve ever taken. But the concept and the sign itself ended up doing most of the heavy lifting. Collectively, the 65 portraits turned out to be an interesting cross-section of the North Shore in 2016.”

Here’s twenty of ’em.

Hello Mike Ho!

His boy Mason!

Ain’t Lyndie a peach? And how about mini-AI!

Dane, maybe wearing the low-fi chic of Former?

Uncle Eddie Rothman. Hello!

Danny Fuller, Pipe stud!

Greyson Fletcher, just magnificent.


Gabriel Median, well groomed.

Bruce Irons, a little serious.

Makua Rothman. Big-Wave world champ!

Luke Egan, still unbelievable on a surf craft.

Coco Ho, wonderful.

Bodysurf supremo, Mark Cunningham.

Freddy P, he got his own spawn!

John John, no chillun yet, but he got a title.

Rosie, sigh…

Kelly Slater, always a decent sport.


Kala Alexander, like, yike! 

Nathan Fletcher, great mom. 

Carissa Moore. Sweet!

Kai Lenny, swings on anything!

Crème: Pipeline Catches Fire!

Who doesn't love the sight of spitting perfection?

As reported here and here, California is currently in a period of great swellular potency. I’m happy to announce that I found redemption from yesterday’s flail by self-sacrificing in oversized closeouts. Nothing a few NPAC-induced cartwheels can’t fix!

But where do these massive NPAC swells visit before completing their journey to California? Hawaii of course!

Swells have been spinning off Japan like Beyblades and pelting the North Shore with favorable angles (W-NW) and winds (E-SE). The result is days on days on days of pumping Pipeline, with no end in sight!

The video below highlights the best waves ridden at Pipe and Backdoor during the recent run of swell. Some of the standouts and their attributes include:

Russ Bierke (0:14): 18 years old, whiter than Colgate, one of the top ten chargers in the world right now.
Masatoshi Ohno (0:38): sits low like Curren, utilizes longer board efficiently.
JJF (1:21): Exponentially more relaxed than all others, doesn’t catch any great waves but rides his to perfection.
Anthony Walsh (2:04): couldn’t stand taller, no GoPro?
Two randoms (2:10): Backdoor guy looks legit, still surprised he made it. Pipe guy rolled into the most amazing, off-balance fluke I’ve seen.
Slater (2:30): sits too far back on his board for my liking, gets a way better tube than I ever will.
Koas Smith/Rothman (2:40): Backdoor, giant stance, thigh stall. Ugly but effective.
Last rider (3:32): impeccable pumping technique, agile foamball recovery.

Who’s your fav?

Oh, and a surprise treat!

XXL: California gets massive surf!

Many die.

And if you happen to be in California, where are you surfing this morning? Is your step-up big enough? Does it contain enough volume? Probably not! It’s Big Sunday!

Multiple people have died so far during this wild run of swell. Two Chinese nationals up near Pebble Beach. A paraglider who coasted into the sea and then got swamped. A man bodysurfing near Morro Rock.

But, and again, where are you surfing? Do you have your big wave spot dialed or do you go to your normal spot and smash against cascading white wash?

Do you watch the buoys like Shane Dorian and plan your attack or do you drive to a parking lot overlooking some whatever beachbreak, put your wetsuit half on and stand and watch for 2 hrs before going home and getting into the bath?

Do you like surfing bigger waves or do you just paddle out because that little voice in your head whispers, “Sissy…” if you don’t?

Dane Reynolds Sandspit
Dane Reynolds is very fond of the crystalline mass known as Sandspit.

Sandspit: Expectations vs Reality!

Surfer chases his Californian unicorn. Is crushed underfoot.

Have you ever been let down, completely? Ordered a pepperoni pie and received anchovy? Brought home a nine and woken up to a three? Built up a wave in your head for years only to surf it on what should be the day of the decade and it actually sucks?


Sandspit has always been my Californian unicorn. A sand-floored, reeling righthander where any doofus could find himself a six-second tube. With a massive WNW swell and wind combo running headlong into the American west, I thought there’d be no better opportunity to seek out this mythical creation. 

Here’s where I’ll break down the stark differences between expectations and reality. 

The first thing I noticed about Sandspit was that something was missing. Situated on the ocean-side of a harbor breakwall, the wave begins with a backwash and a barrel. One of the iconic symbols of this takeoff zone is Old Glory flying loud and proud atop the breakwall flagpole. But today that pillar stood without adornment. 

I wondered, was this a symbol of protest against our newly minted Salamander-in-Chief? A precautionary measure for the impending storm? One and the same?

Whatever the reason, I was optimistic. The last time that Donald Trump achieved a major feat (Election Day, November 8, 2016), the following day provided eleven hours of the best surf I’ve witnessed firsthand. I assumed today would be more of the same, as if the ocean were consciously kind enough to heal our wounds with brine and barrel. It turns out that idea was as stupid as it sounds. 

I won’t say the waves were bad, but they certainly weren’t close to what I was expecting. This swell is gargantuan by most accounts, but that didn’t translate to Sandspit. Head high was an average set, and good luck getting one of those. 

Even more frustrating than the size was the shape, which stunk more of Malibu than Kirra. For whatever reason the wave seemed to push sloppily down the line instead of focusing its energy on the bank, so my visions of a leg-burning cave sprint were left unabated. 

I’ve always believed that to paddle in without catching a wave was akin to extracting your balls and incinerating any remnants of perceived manhood, but I did this exact thing five times today.

And the paddling! Good scott, if you stopped your desperate flailing for more than a second, you were damn near in the harbor. Unless you’ve got the cojones and know-how to jump off the front of the breakwall and straight into the peak (similar to a Snapper Rocks jump-off), you have about five minutes to catch a wave before you’re out of the zone entirely. 

I’ve always believed that to paddle in without catching a wave was akin to extracting your balls and incinerating any remnants of perceived manhood, but I did this exact thing five times today. 

I ended up with a total zero tubes and two decent rides. My arms are sore and I feel like I just got punched in teeth by the brass knuckles of disillusionment. 

Probably should have just marched today instead.

(Watch it here, when its aesthetic intensity is on full reveal. Video by the wonderful Surfing Magazine.)