It isn’t every day an opportunity comes along to connect with a legend, and Laird Hamilton is known around the world as a legend in the surfing world. His true life story, “Take Every Wave,” is premiering this entire week at The Newport Beach Film Festival from April 20 to April 27. While Laird is known for his death defying feats surfing 70 foot waves; the real story is about the ultimate in human potential. In Laird’s mind, his only true competitor is himself. He believes that victory comes through hard work, dedication combined with a powerful inner belief system and mindset. He welcomes the waves into his life as he knows that the real game of life is learning to surf the wave. As a man over 50, he’s not slowing down any time soon. Rather than playing bridge, his advice is to jump off that bridge instead. 50 isn’t a time of endings but rather a time of new beginnings. In Laird’s mind, age is simply an attitude and an outlook on life. He encourages you to keep going and looking forward while relishing the present moment. In his movie, “Take Every Wave,” he shares some of the most valuable life lessons including the most important one – maintaining a strong sense of integrity within oneself.
The arrival of Laird on the red carpet at the Newport Beach Film Festival was naturally filled with anticipation. Newport is a surfing lovers dream and the ideal backdrop for the premiere of “Take Every Wave.” The film weaves the story of Laird’s humble beginnings as his Father takes leave from his life before the age of one. A defining moment in his life, this served to fuel an intensity and inner drive to prove himself to himself and no one else. It’s clear this is a man who made a decision to define life on his own terms. He lives by an inner compass of truth and integrity that serves to anchor him. He believes that one must choose to live in a space of love rather than fear and he’s spent entire his life facing any fear straight on. His mind is his most powerful weapon as it keeps him laser focused on moving forward and continuing his journey of evolution.
Rory Kennedy, the Director of “Take Every Wave,” made a significant departure from her political and societal documentaries in taking on this project. She faced immense logistical challenges shooting over enormous ocean swells yet didn’t let anything deter her from delivering a powerful message. She’s a woman over 50 who doesn’t back down from a challenge and she succeeded in delivering a story that’s really more about the human spirit than anything else. The film tells the story of a man who’s an enigma, part human mixed with superhuman abilities. Rory crafts an inspiring story of a man who came from nothing and became everything on his own terms. She brilliantly weaves memories of his peers and his family, authentically sharing the difficulties and challenges faced when dealing with a man who lives beyond normal human limits. She stays true to Laird’s vision as he believes that your memories should always be smaller than your dreams. Laird’s wife, Gabby Reese, has earned her own reputation as a powerhouse. Rory brings Gabby on the screen and her beautiful vulnerability and authenticity shines through. It’s clear that Laird’s family is a necessary touchstone in his life that keeps him centered and grounded. Rory shows a reclusive nature to his spirit that requires a special soul with a carefully choreographed dance in their relationship. The impact Gabby has had on Laird’s life is obvious and the love they share is one of those rare combinations that’s divinely inspired. There’s a very emotional moment, as Gabby and Laird worked through some personal issues, and Rory captures the essence of their unique relationship with a special understanding. It’s clear that Gabby has learned those special dance steps that keep their beautifully choreographed dance going.
The direction is raw and real as older clips are shown of Laird’s early days in Hawaii and the abuse he experienced as a “white boy” in a brown world. He grew up amongst the native Hawaiian culture yet he didn’t look like the others and he paid a price. Over time, he began to understand the culture and in his own words, he began thinking more like a “brown” person. He was raised by his Mother who married the well known surfing icon, Bill Hamilton. Laird had a very special relationship with his Mom who was a guiding light in his life. Teaching him that the most important thing in the world is being true to ourselves. She taught him that when we lie to ourselves, we can’t be truthful with others. Laird opens up about his previous addiction to alcohol and how he made the decision to stop drinking in one moment 9 years ago and never turned back. This is a man who has shown time and again the power of the mind. There are some uncomfortable moments as his stepfather, Bill Hamilton, shares the challenges he faced in parenting a young, spirited boy while he was just a kid himself. Bill didn’t have the maturity to understand young Laird leading to some difficult interactions. You have to admire his vulnerability in sharing many of the lessons he learned in parenting a young Laird who was clearly destined for great things.
Laird fills the screen with some pearls of wisdom. He sees the storms in our lives as opportunities to thrive and cannot imagine a life without some intense waves. The movie can be hard to watch at times. You may be tempted to turn away from watching Laird take on a 70 foot wave that’s never been done before. Rory shares some emotional moments between Laird and his “Strapped” crew as they face life threatening situations. His friends open up and share some uncomfortable moments in befriending a man who doesn’t let anything get in his way. Rory doesn’t gloss over the fact that Laird has made some enemies over the years yet it almost feels like that’s a natural part of the path to achieving greatness. Laird has learned what’s most important in life and that’s the power of love and family. I imagine he will be surfing waves until the moment the door to heaven opens wide. No doubt, he will probably surf his way home…all the way home.
You can find Catherine Grace O’Connell at CatherineGraceO.com. She is on Facebook, and Instagram and Twitter as @catherinegraceo. You can find out more about The Fierce 50 Campaign and how you can help us and join the Revolution by sending an email to [email protected].
Originally published at medium.com