The world's greatest rhino chaster on his new biopic Take Every Wave…
Earlier today, a well-proportioned fifty-three-year-old Hawaiian-born man, a superhuman some might say, lighted up my telephone from his summer house in Malibu, California.
Laird Zerfas (later, Hamilton, when his mammy split from daddy and moved her and the boy to the North Shore where she married the big-waver Billy Hamilton) was born in an experimental salt-water sphere, was scouted as a model as a teenager and, later, turned the whole big-wave thing on the head with tow-surfing, foils and so on.
Malibu in summer is where Laird does his pre-season training: running, swimming, paddling, six, sometimes seven days a week.
Maui, in winter, is where Laird besieges his favourite big waves. Jaws etc.
Laird was calling to talk about the movie Take Every Wave: the life of Laird Hamilton, the biopic directed by Rory Kennedy, which is loosed into fifty American cinemas in two days.
In a few hours he’ll be fronting the US premiere (the movie’s world premiere was at Savage Cinema at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain) perhaps even ditching the famous flip-flops-with-jeans look.
“I might go big and wear shoes!” he says.
Should you see Take Any Wave? Read the review here!
Now let’s babble.
BeachGrit: In the trailer, ’cause, caveat, I ain’t seen the film, lost the link to the screener, you said the ocean was where you could get away from trouble on the land? What trouble?
Laird: I grew up a white guy in Hawaii and there was a certain level of …of…of…aggression… on the land. Or should I say, instead of aggression, a certain level of separation. I was a white guy in a dark guy’s world. I was an outsider, like I am in surfing, so it was a natural place for me. Some of my best friends are Hawaiians and some of the greatest and most beautiful people are Hawaiians. But when you’re a minority in a racially tense environment you get used to being an outcast. I think that shaped my life.
BeachGrit: Do you sympathise with the wretched treatment doled out to Afro-Americanos by the White Devil on the mainland?
Laird: I sympathise. First of all, it makes me anti-racial. I always say I’m a human from earth. If you’re different we can talk about it. I am anti-racial. I have friends of all nationalities and I don’t discriminate.
BeachGrit: What’s the key to a remarkable life?
Laird: You’ll never regret following your heart. You don’t always know if you’re going in the right direction but if you go with your heart and instincts it seems to pan out. At least for me.
BeachGrit: How honest is the film?
Laird: It’s about as honest and open as I can be. I did twenty five hours of interviews with Rory Kennedy, the director, and she interviewed every person that she could and dug out archival footage and she made a story out of it. What she chooses to put in and what she chooses to take out, it’s all her and her skills. I did what I could to make a great film. Some people are quite surprised by it. But, is every single thing that happened to me in it? No. You couldn’t fit it all in a two-hour movie.
BeachGrit: What keeps you awake at night?
Laird: The wellness of my children. Things that I desire keep me awake too. I’m kept awake by the inspirational as well as the fear based. But the things that are fear-based have to do with my family.
BeachGrit: Have you ever believed you were about to die?
Laird: I have. Probably more than once. Most of ’em happened when I was really young.
BeachGrit: Can you recount a specific event?
Laird: They blend together. I try not to give anything like that too much power.
BeachGrit: What’s failure to you?
Laird: Not willing to try is a form of failure. The lack of an ability to say you’re sorry, there’s failure in that.
When I’m in danger, when I’m in a position of fear, I’m on high alert. It’s the most awake I can be in my life. My awareness, everything, peripheral vision, my senses are on maximum. Everything’s turned up.
BeachGrit: What’s fear to you?
Laird: Fear is your imagination. Fear itself is an energy, an emotion that is very useful. Being scared is something else, however.
BeachGrit: How does fear manifest itself within you?
Laird: When I’m in danger, when I’m in a position of fear, I’m on high alert. It’s the most awake I can be in my life. My awareness, everything, peripheral vision, my senses are on maximum. I’m assessing. Everything’s turned up. It’s a mode I go into. I’ve been there before and it’s got me through a lot of different situations.
BeachGrit: What would you change about your life?
Laird: Nothing if it would stop me from being here, today, at this time. Listen, are there things I’m remorseful for? That I regret? Yeah, possibly. Everyone has that. But, if the changing of those things would change where I am, I wouldn’t change any of ‘em. Listen, at a certain point, having regrets is unhealthy anyway.
BeachGrit: This ain’t movie, but that damn hip you got sawn off and replaced a year ago. You’re awake in the operation and you go home without painkillers. Oowee, that’s tough.
Laird: It felt like a horse kick for three months. But it had gotten to the point where I could barely walk. I’d surf for two hours and then have to do two hours of mobility, soft-tissue work to get it neutral. I don’t mind hobbling around if I can perform in the ocean but it was starting to inhibit my ability in the water.
BeachGrit: Is watching your hip get sawn off and replaced with steel a fabulous experience?
Laird: The doctor was covered in my blood, all over his mask. I could feel him yanking on me. I could feel pulsing as he was doing shit to my leg. It wasn’t pain because they did a spinal tap where they numb one leg. I called one of my buddies to talk during the operation for amusement,
BeachGrit: How y’feel now?
Laird: Phenomenal. I run the beach but I got other issues now. Other things that hurt, but not that.
BeachGrit: Take Every Wave is a life story. Describe your life.
Laird: Listen, the film is full disclosure. Life is a rollercoaster and no matter what is perceived in the media, there’s a winter, a summer, a hurricane, a calm. Things happen. Experience happens. My life is no different.
And watch in weird 360!