Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton

Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 118 Minutes
From: IFC Films
Available on DVD and Digital Platforms:  February 6, 2018
Get it via : Amazon | iTunes

There was one point during “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton,” when I just felt like such a schlub. It was during a scene showing Laird training. With his being 53 as I type this, and the footage not looking that old, he was probably about my age now, me being 50, or a little older. There he was, training in the gym, in the water with weights, and just being all healthy and stuff. Laird was able to love life, even with his aches and pains, and here I am struggling to get my ass out of bed most days just to get on a treadmill. I’m sure living in Hawaii kind of helps, but now I’m just making excuses.

Maybe I should let Laird’s life inspire me, even at 50, to live life instead of not let life go by, because as you watch the documentary, Laird never lets life go by.

I first heard of Laird, and that he was married to Gabrielle “Gabby” Reece, on the Tim Ferriss podcast. During the podcast they touched briefly on Laird’s past, but most of the talk was of exercise, marriage, and life in general. I found him interesting, but after watching “Take Every Wave,” I now find him fascinating. And I miss Kauai.

At its easiest, Laird Hamilton is a surfer dude. That said, Laird is not easy, that’s for sure, and at the end of the day he’s not just any surfer dude, many would consider him “The” surfer dude, especially when it comes to tackling “Big Wave Surfing.” He also has the wonderful ability to look at problems, see the answer, and have the perseverance to try, tinker, and test everything that will get him to that answer.

As far as the documentary this is an entire look at the life of Laird, beginning with footage back at his mom, a surfer dudette. With his biological dad off as a merchant marine, mom moved to Hawaii. I don’t blame her.

It was in Hawaii that Bill Hamilton came into the picture, a surfer dude himself, and Laird telling Bill on the beach, “I want you to be my dad.” Dad went down the beach, saw Laird’s mom, and the rest was destiny, at least for them as a family.

Laird, of course, learned the ins and outs of surfing at an early age, and also learned that mean people suck, especially as a white kid in Hawaii. His rebellion let him to find the ocean as a place to hide, off the land, in touch with the sea. By becoming fearless in the water the local kids began to develop a respect for Laird.

We see Laird’s growth as a surfer, but also how, as it was put, that it wasn’t the competition that bothered him, it was the judgement. This translated into his surfing where he wouldn’t enter competitions even though he was probably the best, and also into acting where he would be cast in surfer roles, notably the movie “North Shore,” but he wouldn’t go on casting calls. He also found money in modeling, but he basically had the opinion that if people wanted him in a movie or modeling, they knew where to find him.

While he could have coasted along with the normal waves, for Laird we see that bigger is always better, and it has always been his quest to ride the biggest. Things move along from Laird’s life as a shore surfer, to discovering the better waves were past the paddling speeds, so what do you do? He figures it out, gets his friends, they become The Strap Crew, they come up with a plan, and tow-in surfing was born.

The documentary doesn’t hold back that Laird could be a prima donna of sorts, especially when it was time to move on from The Strap Crew. It also does its best to show that being married to Laird can have its challenges, to the point he and Gabby almost called it quits, but eventually they figure things out.

I think that’s the thing I really liked about the documentary – seeing how Laird would just figure things out. Kids would beat him up so he figured out they couldn’t beat him up if he was riding a wave; Competition could have judges who were biased instead of fair so he figured out he could surf with more notoriety on a big wave, without the judgement; You couldn’t paddle fast enough to ride the big waves so he figured out you could use a speedboat, and eventually a jet ski, to get “towed” into the wave; And there was a limit to riding the big waves because of the friction of the surfboard, so he figured out foil surfing.

The documentary is filled with interviews of old members of The Strap Crew who never received the accolades that Laird received, as well as tons of footage of Laird from his time as a little surfer dude to the man who now makes me feel like schlub. It was the ending that was wonderful, however, as the scene would shift back and forth from a surfing competition complete with judgement commentary after judgement commentary, to Laird’s riding a massive wave on his new foil, alone, with the only person judging being Laird, himself. It was breathtaking.

I absolutely loved “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton,” and even though it clocks in at almost two hours I became interested in the progression of Laird’s life from start to finish. It was a fascinating look at a man who at times can seem like the stereotypical “surfer dude,” but we find out he is so much more. It also made me dream of going back to Kauai someday, to the monk seals down in Poipu, some shave ice at the Hee Fat General Store in Kapaa, and do some body-surfing at Hanalei Beach. I suppose my goal should actually be to get on a real surfboard instead of just my belly. Anyway, it’s 5 stars out of 5 for “Take Every Wave.” If you want to see the life of one interesting dude, this is a great one.

Hanalai Beach
Hanalai Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

That’s it for this one!! L8R!!