Already regarded as the best big-wave surfer of all time, Laird Hamilton just keeps adding to his legacy. He introduced America to stand-up paddle surfing, appeared in The Descendants and is the 12th crew member of the Puma team in the Volvo Ocean Race, the world’s toughest and longest boat race. Oh, and he’s married to beach v-ball hottie Gabby Reece. We caught up with Hamilton to talk surfing, fitness, Clooney, women and sunscreen (about which he has strong feelings).
MADE MAN: For someone starting to surf, what’s your best advice?
LAIRD HAMILTON: First, get a lesson. Then, get the right board. You don’t want to use too small a board, either. Having a bigger board that you can paddle and catch the wave with is really the key to learning.
Most of the sunscreens on the market have got some horrific stuff in them. They’re worse than the sun itself.
MM: Cool. Anything else?
LH: Find the right location. It’s all about the spot, because you need a wave, and you need the right kind of wave. So go someplace that has a sand bottom and gentle waves—Southern California and certain parts of Hawaii and Florida and Costa Rica.
MM: Do you see surfing as a microcosm of life?
LH: Surfing’s really inside of people. It’s about a relationship with the ocean. And it’s a really good, realistic way to go about living. Because, you know, you never know when the waves are coming. You’re kind of reliant on something that you can’t see. You don’t know when it’s going to happen, but you know it’s going to happen and you have to be prepared.
MM: That was deep.
LH: Also, if you’re truly a surfer or a waterman, it dictates where you live, where you travel, the way you live with your family, the way you are, everything. That really makes it a little easier on your life. Or at least it gives you a template that you can apply to living, so you’re not in the void and in the darkness.
MM: How do you stay in shape?
LH: The thing about fitness is that you need to be inspired. To do the same thing over and over again, that monotony takes a certain mindset that I don’t have. Finding activities that are fun and that take a lot of work, that’s one of the keys to fitness for me. I’m always looking for new things to do. I ride bikes. I do stand-up paddling. I do a bunch of pool training. I train in the gym. I do yoga. I run in the sand. I do push-ups, pull-ups, Hindu squats. With fitness, variety is really the key.
MM: You were great in The Descendants. How did that come about?
LH: I had met George Clooney through some friends and got some stand-up paddleboards for his house in Europe. But the part actually came through a casting agent. He thought I would be good for the part, so I went and read for Alexander Payne on Oahu. And then I got it, which was kind of a surprise. Working with Payne and Clooney was so easy and so comfortable. Acting is not as easy as everybody thinks. But I have to appreciate what George said, which is, “Hey, don’t forget, it’s just pretend.” So I would never take it that serious.
MM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about women, and who gave it to you?
LH: Well, there’s a famous surfer named Joey Cabell. He said, “Women are a constant source of maintenance.” Now, I have an incredible relationship with my mother, and I have all girls and work with a lot of women and have a lot of respect for them. But I had to appreciate that line. And then Dr. Dre has one of the greatest lines, which is essentially, “I’m catching girls while girls are catching feelings.” Ha ha.
MM: Just curious, do you use sunscreen?
LH: I’m really the anti-sunscreen guy. I think sunscreen’s terrible. Most of the sunscreens on the market—in fact, 99 percent of them—have got some horrific stuff in them. And I feel they’re worse than the sun itself. I mean, we were born in the sun; we were designed to be in the sun. Without the sun and photosynthesis, none of us are alive. We get vitamins from the sun. And it’s yet to be proven that sunburn causes skin cancer. I think health is the best sunscreen you can ever use.
MM: Any parting words of wisdom?
LH: Yeah. You are what you eat, and Rome wasn’t conquered in a day.
MM: Cool. Thanks for your time.
LH: You’re welcome. Aloha.