Tracks - - Intro -

The clos­est I’ve come to meet­ing Laird Hamil­ton was on the is­land of Kauai a cou­ple of years ago. There was a 30ft swell run­ning so I did the hon­ourable thing and went for a chop­per ride over the is­land with my girl­friend. As we rounded the won­drous, cliff-lined Na­pali coast, I looked down and saw Laird knif­ing across a giant ocean lump on his foil board. With the keel thrust­ing well out of the water and Laird’s arms flung wide for bal­ance it was like watch­ing a giant bird flying low over the ocean. There was no­body but Laird and a cou­ple of his bud­dies around, whip­ping into 30ft swells on a vel­vet clean stretch of open ocean. At that mo­ment I could see the ap­peal of the foil ex­pe­ri­ence and un­der­stand why per­haps Laird, the orig­i­nal Her­culean fig­ure of big wave surf­ing, wanted no part of a crowded pad­dle scene at Jaws – a wave he had once reigned over on a tow board. But does hav­ing too much fun on a foil board ex­empt him from mak­ing a show­ing at Jaws mi­nus the tow-rope? In his grip­ping fea­ture ar­ti­cle, jour­nal­ist, An­thony Pan­cia, is bold enough to ask Laird ex­actly why he isn’t in the lineup at Peahi, pad­dling into a cou­ple of waves along­side Shane and the boys. We’re sure you will en­joy Laird’s re­sponses as much as you will like hear­ing what Kelly, Dorian, Kai Lenny, Al­bee Layer and even Ed­die Roth­man have to say about Laird.

Just as Laird left an in­deli­ble mark when he slalomed through the 'Mil­len­nium Wave' at Teahupoo in 2000, pro surfers like Taj Bur­row, Rob Machado and Tyler Wright have lit­er­ally carved their place in surf­ing his­tory. To the as­tute surf­ing fan their style, stance, hand ges­tures and lines are all dis­tinc­tive and in­stantly recog­nis­able. It’s tes­ta­ment to their legacy and im­pact that we don’t need the nametag on the screen or photo cap­tion on the page to let us know who it is. If we saw one of them fly by on a wave in the flesh we’d im­me­di­ately be like, ‘Hey that’s Taj out there.’ How­ever, de­spite their iconic sta­tus, all of them will hap­pily ad­mit that some other surfer was a ma­jor source of in­flu­ence on their act.

At some point they were all will­ing to beg, bor­row and steal from their own surf­ing heroes. It might have been a spe­cific hand place­ment in a bot­tom turn or a philo­soph­i­cal out­look on the world, but all the best took a lit­tle some­thing from those who went be­fore. The aca­dem­i­cally in­clined might go so far as to sug­gest that elite surf­ing has its own kind of fam­ily tree; that if you look closely enough there is a lin­eage, which can con­nect great surfers all the way back to The Duke and be­yond.

In the fea­ture, ‘On the Shoul­ders of Giants’, Kirk Ow­ers talks to a cross-sec­tion of high pro­file surfers about who they de­rived their in­spi­ra­tion from and con­nects the surf­ing DNA dots. This is­sue also fea­tures pro­files on Stu Kennedy and Jordy Smith, two WCT surfers who are at dif­fer­ent stages of their ca­reers, but both shoul­der­ing the ex­pec­ta­tions of their re­spec­tive surf­ing na­tions. De­spite a reper­toire that roars on the face and above the lip, Jordy Smith has strug­gled to chal­lenge for the world ti­tle ev­ery­one in South Africa wants him to win. In­trepid South African pho­tog­ra­pher Alan Van Gy­sen sits down with Jordy over a beer and a braii (Sth African bar­bie) for a frank dis­cus­sion about the forces in­flu­enc­ing Jordy’s life. Mean­while, as Mick Fan­ning’s WCT com­mit­ment wa­vers, Stu Kennedy, has the op­por­tu­nity to be­come the surfer on tour who res­onates with a broad Aus­tralian fan base. Stu’s pro­file looks at how his col­lab­o­ra­tion with shaper, Dan Tom­son, set the scene for one of mod­ern pro surf­ing’s most in­trigu­ing come­back sto­ries.

It’s a big is­sue. Think of it like a bar­rel and get buried deep.

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