Laird Hamilton (born March 2, 1964) is an American big-wave surfer, co-inventor of tow-in surfing, and an occasional fashion and action-sports model. He is married to Gabrielle Reece, a professional volleyball player, television personality, and model. Hamilton and his family split their time between residences in Maui, Hawaii, and Malibu, California.
While still a young boy living on Oahu, Laird met with 1960s surfer Bill Hamilton, a bachelor at the time, on Pūpūkea beach on the North Shore. Bill Hamilton was a surfboard shaper and glasser on Oahu in the 1960s and 1970s and owned a small business handmaking custom, high-performance surfboards for the Oahu North Shore big wave riders of the era. The two became immediate companions. The young Laird invited Bill Hamilton home to meet his mother. Bill Hamilton married Laird's then-single mother, becoming Laird's adoptive father. The family later moved to a remote valley on Kauaʻi island.
Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu where Hamilton grew up
By the age of 17, Hamilton had become an accomplished surfer and could have left modeling to pursue a career on surfing's World Championship Tour. However, competitive surfing and contests never appealed to Hamilton, who had watched his father Bill endure the competitive surfing contest politics and the random luck of the waves in organized championship surfing events. Bill Hamilton regarded surfing more as a work of art, rather than based chiefly on wave-by-wave ride performance scored by judges.
By the late 1990s, Hamilton continued with windsurfing, waterskiing and kitesurfing. In 1996 Hamilton and Manu Bertin were instrumental in demonstrating and popularizing kitesurfing off the Hawaiian coast of
Hamilton's drop into Tahiti's Teahupoʻo break on the morning of August 17, 2000 firmly established him in the recorded history of surfing. Teahupoʻo is a particularly hazardous shallow-water reef break southeast of the Pacific Island of Tahiti.
Hamilton is regarded by surfing historians as the "all time best of the best" at big wave surfing, regularly surfing swells of 35 feet (11 m) tall, and moving at speeds in excess of 30 miles (48 km) an hour and successfully riding other waves of up to 70 feet (21 m) high, at up to 50 mph (80 km/h). Hamilton prefers tow-in surfing the giant waves of Peʻahi reef (known as the Jaws surf break) on the north central shore of the Island of Maui.
Despite being one of the best known surfers since the time of Duke Kahanamoku, the matured Hamilton avoids self-promotion. He serves as an ambassador of surfing and watersports and occasional lifeguard to other tow-in surfers.
Hamilton is also an environmental activist. He joined a protest in Malibu against a proposed plant, which would affect the quality of the local waters.