Laird Hamilton is on the receiving end of a lot of hate. He did, after all, almost single-handedly start the SUP revolution. From the looks of it, he spends vast amounts of time lifting heavy things, running out of the water with a stern look on his face, and figuring out new ways to piss the people who already hate him off even more. And he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
Here’s the thing about Laird: as amazing as it is, the social politics of our tiny little pastime is very similar to high school. When the cool kid points at someone and says, “that’s not cool,” everyone who loves the cool kid echoes him, only a little louder. “Yeah, we think that too!” they say, desperation in their eyes. “That’s not cool. That’s the worst. We hate it! Fuck that! Are we cool too, cool kid? Would you like some more peeled grapes or perhaps we could gargle your balls for a minute?”
Despite the fact that he’s doing things that no one else has ever done, it’s become cool to hate Laird. It’s become cool to scoff at a person trying new things. It’s become cool to stay stagnant. But Laird is consistently on the forefront of what’s next or what’s possible–most notably, hydro-foiling. This time he’s doing it with a (gasp!) SUP. Now, I don’t ride a SUP, nor do I particularly like them, but it’s clear that a lot of people do, so I will shut up and live and let live instead of railing against it because some guy on a thruster told me that I should. Hydrofoiling is something I haven’t quite figured out how I feel about, but I saw Kai Lenny doing it at Sunset and it blew my mind out of the back of my head. I do, however, take issue with Laird’s decision to ride his giant board with a giant fin in a relatively crowded lineup. Those things can be way more dangerous than a regular surfboard.
Laird put foiling and stand up paddling together for no other reason than he wanted to try it out, and he’s undoubtedly going to have people vomiting up their hatred at him for it. Laird will not be affected. You know why? Because, whether it’s deemed cool or not, Laird is doing what HE wants to do… not what the surf community tells him he should be doing. In a community that claims to embrace individuality so tightly, which one is cooler?