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Hang 10, dudes! Surfing legend's life to be highlighted at South Coast events

UCSB Arts and Lectures
Big Wave surfing legend Laird Hamilton's life, and career are being honored by a pair of events in Santa Barbara, starting with a free September 29th screening of a documentary about his story.

Documentary about the life of Laird Hamilton to be shown in Santa Barbara this week, followed by in-person event with surf icon in October.

He's a big wave surfing legend. Now, the life and career of Laird Hamilton is going to be celebrated with two events on the South Coast.

Hamilton is known as a rebel in the surfing world. He’s tackled some of the world’s most challenging, and dangerous surf spots.

Hamilton literally grew up on a surfboard, living in Hawaii. In fact, he spoke to KCLU News from his home on Maui.

"I always wanted to be something in surfing, since I was a little kid," said Hamilton. "You know, when other kids wanted to be firemen, or astronauts, I wanted to be a surfer."

But, he wasn’t interested in making his living on the professional surf circuit. "Because there's an artistic aspect to surfing...there were options," said Laird. "The competitive format just didn't fit with me...I was inspired by the danger...the big waves."

By the time he was 17, he was an accomplished surfer. A photographer took pictures of him on a beach at Kauai, and that led to a career as a model. However, money from modeling allowed his to pursue his true passion, which was traveling the world chasing the world's most challenging waves.

But, he pushed surfing way past its traditional form. For instance, he and his friends put straps on boards, to try to do 360 degree loops in the monster waves off of Maui.

"Windsurfing had a big influence...we could jump, and fly, and do some crazy stuff," said Hamilton. Did he pull of the 360? "Absolutely. But, this wasn't something which occurred often."

He admits it’s hard to pick out one of his adventures that was “the” highlight of his more than half century on a board. In the year 2000, he took on an extremely dangerous shallow-water reef break in Tahiti, an adventure captured in what’s considered to be one of the world’s most iconic surfing photos.

"I've had some unique days...I've had some big wow, how did I even survive that?"

His colorful life, and reputation as one of the bad boys of surfing led to the 2017 documentary “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton.” He admits it’s a little strange seeing his story on film. "It's a little embarrassing, but I'm thankful that I have been able to do things interesting enough to make a film."

The documentary “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton” is going to be shown Thursday night, at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theater. The 7:30 p.m. event is open to the public, and free.

Then, on October 16, Hamilton will appear in person at the Arlington. That even will be moderated by Rory Kennedy, who directed the documentary about the legendary surfer.

Both events are sponsored by UC Santa Barbara’s Arts and Lectures.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.