TAKE EVERY WAVE: THE LIFE OF LAIRD HAMILTON – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton starts out at the beginning and how he and his young teenage surfing mother Joann ended up living in Hawaii in the mid-60s at the place where all the stars of surfing came to prove themselves. He was the only kid that followed his mother to the beach and grew up among these guys. He even picked the guy that looked like he should be his dad and told him he wanted him to be his father. It helped that when he brought Bill Hamilton over to his mom that the seventeen-year-old surfer and board maker fell head over heels for her and married her. Everything, wasn’t all roses after that. Growing up blonde and white on the islands got him and his little brother beat up and bullied by the locals. At home, his young father struggled with a temper and took it out on the kids. So, the only place Laird was at peace was in the water. Laird exhibited extraordinary athletic ability and a seeming fearlessness from that early age. And as they say, the rest is history, and that is part of the problem. Except for his early childhood story the rest of the film just covers what the world already pretty much already knew about him.
Laird Hamilton is as famous as any surfer living or dead despite the fact he never competed in the sport professionally. He claims he is disinterested in “being judged,” but his friends say it probably more likely because he “can’t stand losing.” He may not have competed professionally but he did push the sport to new standards. Laird is an innovator who embraced wind surfing and helped grow the Big Wave surfing movement with a small group of friends calling themselves the “Strapped Crew.” They used the then new jet ski technology to tow surfers out to ride waves that were hard or impossible to paddle out to. In fact, his group were in Maui’s Pe’ahi aka “Jaws” in the early 90s in a little known place that had waves they called the Atom Blaster. That’s where, as a team led by Laird, they perfected the techniques needed to successfully use towing for big wave surfing. I like the fact that this movie documents this advancement with such great cinematography and photography. The film also shows how Laird was willing to maximize nearly every avenue of opportunity by self branding and even alienating some lesser-sung buddies who’ve shared in his achievements but not their rewards. He admits on screen that he’s sorry for hurting anyone on the way up. That said, he adds that if he had a chance to do it differently, it would have affected the quality of life or lessened the position he has now. Ultimately, he did it his way and wouldn’t change a thing.
Laird’s new focus is using foil technology, adding it to a surfboard and seeing how far he can go with that. The footage at the end of him on that foil board is brilliant.
Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton doesn’t really probe deep into his life or share anything that would harm him or his wife, Gabrielle Reeces’ brand, which is a shame because you really don’t walk away with a sense that you really learned anything that was not already known about him out in the surfing world. That’s why I give the film just a B rating, it’s an “OK Movie.” However, the exhilarating impact of the surfing footage is worth seeing on the big screen for people that surf or wish they did.
Directed by Rory Kennedy
Written By Mark Bailey, Jack Youngelson
Selig Rating B
Running Time 1hr 58min
Documentary / Sport
Limited Release Oct 20th Inwood Theater
Starring: Laird Hamilton, Gabrielle Reece, Nick Carroll, Darrick Doerner, Sam George, Bill Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Buzzy Kerbox, Brett Lickle, Gerry Lopez
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.