"This thing was massive, a huge tunnel, and I could see Kelly coming right down it in front of me."
The last time we saw the world’s greatest racing car driver and keen surfer Lewis Hamilton on these pages he was embroiled in a racism row with former FI champ Nelson Piquet after the latter described the former using an epithet outlawed to whites and to escape the noise had fled to Malibu.
With trademark sun-kissed braids pulled into a sensible bun, Hamilton was subsequently filmed polishing off a wave with a cool “what-me-worry” style.
“The guy clearly knows what he’s doing … propping himself up on the board and maintaining his balance throughout the run (no porpoising here, thankfully),” wrote TMZ Sports.
Lou’s surf bona fides have long been documented. A regular at the WSL’s Surf Ranch, he has ridden the Melbourne tank and in 2021 posted a moving tribute to Kelly Slater on his Instagram account.
“He probably doesn’t know this but Kelly changed my life for the better. I want you all to know how great of a human being this man is. I am forever grateful for the time you have given me, for the insight and your passion for the waves. Thank you @kellyslater! Can’t wait until we can hit the waves again (praying hands emoji).”
It’s a perilous relationship and reminiscent of Sean “Poopies” McInerny and Jamie O’Brien’s dangerous friendship, the master and commander of the ocean taunting his fall guy into waters far out of his depth.
In fact, Hamilton says he nearly died at “25-foot” Pipeline following a dare from Slater.
“When someone says ‘you can’t climb that tree,’ I’ll climb it, even if I’ll almost certainly fall out of it.” As if to prove the point, he tells a story about a near-death experience a couple of years ago when he paddled out to Hawaii’s notorious Banzai Pipeline, an iconic surf break, with surfing legend Kelly Slater. “Kelly was like, ‘there’s no way you’re going out there,’” Hamilton says, his eyes sparkling at the memory of the 25-foot wave. “And I was like, ‘Kelly, I’m going out.’”
He paddled to the edge of the wave. “This thing was massive, a huge tunnel, and I could see Kelly coming right down it in front of me,” he continues. “And I just had to make sure I didn’t get sucked in. So I dived down and grabbed the reef and prayed. I could hear the thing land behind me, like a bomb going off. My board got ripped off and snapped in half. I was very close to the end. But that excites me for some reason.”
Couple of takeaways.
You think Lou told the reporter the waves were twenty-five feet or was that an embellishment or presumption of the writer? If he did say it was twenty-five foot, what was the actual size?
Did Lou really grip the famous Pipeline reef and pray?
And how close to the end? Really close or vaguely adjacent?