In May, SUP magazine Guest Editor Gerry Lopez sat down for the definitive Laird Hamilton interview, where the godfather of standup paddling talked about his surfing roots, the origins of standup and his mission to have fun, no matter who tries to cut him down. Here, in an excerpt from that interview, Lopez and Hamilton discuss the importance of enjoying the ocean and the water in general—perhaps standup paddling’s most important aspect. Stay tuned to SUPthemag.com for video from that interview. – Joe Carberry
Gerry: Modern equipment has limited the surfers of anything less than the very cream, the very top edge of the skill level. Only the very best guys can really ride those boards to their full potential. And the rest are kind of struggling. It’s limiting.
Laird: Yeah, limiting. Stagnating. And then unless it’s the most perfect day in 30 years it becomes a frustrating sport. And that’s why I think there is a lot of frustration in surfing. I know when we go out with guys in the wintertime and we got 10 guys standup paddling, and it’s like, everybody go on the wave. You don’t care; you go straight. I’ll catch set waves straight down and ride ‘em all the way into the beach and paddle all the way around just ‘cause it was fun. I don’t have to be in the perfect spot and scream at three guys to make sure I get the wave.
Gerry: Yeah. That’s what surfing used to be like. It was how many guys you could stuff on one wave. Everybody going.
Laird: And you ride together. You laugh and it’s the camaraderie and the joy and the fun. I just feel like, the more we get back to that, that’s what I want to do. I want to have fun. And I look to you as an example of that. I thought, for me, the only sin that I could really do in my life, besides all the ones that are listed in the Book, would be to stop loving the ocean and stop loving surfing. And I know, for me, if I stayed at Pipeline, and I rode a thruster at Pipeline for the last 30 years, I wouldn’t be smiling. Ya know what I mean? I probably would be pretty frustrated.
Gerry: You told me about the new bumper sticker that says, ‘Blame Laird.’ And I think it’s kinda incomplete, because those guys haven’t discovered how great standup is. It should be ‘Blame Laird for everyone having fun again.’
Laird: And then go back, go further, and blame The Duke. When The Duke spread surfing around the world, it was fun. It was about how much fun you could have. It wasn’t about the contests. It was like how fun and how far you can ride and, ultimately, I think, finding what brings you satisfaction. I know, for me, if I was letting other people’s attitude dictate the fun you’re having, we’d all be miserable.
The 2010 summer issue of SUP magazine is on sale now at REI, Borders, Barnes and Noble and more than 300 paddle shops across the country.