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Big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton writes 'Force of Nature'

October 30, 2008 | 10:55 am

Laird Hamilton

Laird Hamilton is one of those rare living legends, larger than life, although he often appears as a mere spec on some of the waves he rides in his backyard at Jaws off Maui.

He pioneered the sport of tow-surfing, utilizing jet skis to streak aboard mountainous peaks. More recently, he modernized stand-up paddle-surfing and not long ago paddled the length of the Hawaiian island chain — standing up, in daylight, darkness and on rough seas.

Now Hamilton has written a book, his first, appropriately titled “Force of Nature: Mind, Body, Soul (and, of Course, Surfing),” published by Rodale Books.

It's not what you might expect. It does not boast of Hamilton’s many accomplishments, for they’re known already. It is, rather, the surfer’s philosophy on life and a revelation of his extreme health-oriented lifestyle.

And chances are that "Force of Nature" -- thought it won't necessarily turn you into one -- will  inspire you to enjoy a fuller, healthier and more confident existence.

The pages are splashed with photos and accounts from people who have influenced Hamilton's life, including wife Gabby Reese. But it is Hamilton's  take on life, his honesty and genuineness, that drives this work.

The following are just a few of what I call Lairdisms, his words to live by:

On positive thinking: “I believe that our thoughts have real, powerful effects on us. For instance, let’s say you wake up one morning in a  rotten mood. You don’t know why, but you’re just looking for a fight. Well, in my experience, the moment you walk out the front door you’re going to find someone who wants  to fight you back. He’ll probably be standing right there.
“On the other hand, if you’re just thinking about enjoying yourself, you’re probably not running into a lot of complications.”

On risk: “If you live in Afghanistan, you’re not in need of any extra uncertainty. But for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in places where our lives are relatively safe, I think if we challenged ourselves—even scared ourselves—once a day, we’d be better people. It helps to have that little jolt of perspective to remind you that life’s fragile.”

On fear: “Meet up with your fears. If you’re afraid of sharks, go learn all about sharks. Get into the water with one. If you respect fear, face it straight on and act anyway. What you’ll find isn’t terror—it’s exhilaration and the moments that you never forget.”

On negativity: “If you’re plagued by negative thoughts, here’s a simple cure: Do something. If you think about it, negative thoughts are a luxury. They’re a way to avoid getting down to work. We are each our greatest inhibitors. We stop ourselves. The irony is that if you just get out of your own way, you’ll do really well.”

And so the book goes, expanding beyond philosophy to work ethic and physical conditioning. Hamilton describes his favorite workouts, which might explode the heart of an average person. He’s deeply into yoga and reminds that notorious warriors under Genghis Khan did 1,000 sun salutations to start their day.

Hamilton describes the foods he loves — all of it fresh and, whenever possible, organic — and supplements he swears by. (There’s even a recipe portion, courtesy of chef/surfer Giada De Laurentiis.)

Later in the book Hamilton talks about growing up. He and Gabby discuss raising three girls. “We’re balancing out the testosterone,” she says.

Hamilton recounts the Hawaiian island channel crossings, which were to raise autism awareness. He discusses the evolution of surfing and provides tips for those wanting to expand their surfing horizons.

What does it all mean?  Hamilton says what matters is to find your passion and look inward. “If you look outward,” he writes, “all you’ll see is what other people are doing. You’re not other people.”

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Laird Hamilton comes ashore on a stand-up paddle surfboard in Paradise Cove in 2006. Credit: Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times