WHY ISN'T LAIRD IN THE LINEUP?
NOT SCARED TO ASK LAIRD THE HARD QUESTIONS.
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.