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Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton Poster

This is the remarkable story of an American icon who changed the sport of big wave surfing forever. Transcending the surf genre, this in-depth portrait of a hard-charging athlete explores.


Rory Kennedy


The film opens with breathtaking cinematography that puts the audience right inside the surging waters, a real high even when watching the waves on screen before introducing the main star and film subject – big wave surfer Laird Hamilton.

After 5 minutes of surf footage, director Rory Kennedy (LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM, GHOSTS OF ABU DHABI), delves into the life of Laird Hamilton.  Director Kennedy, born into the Presidential Kennedy family knows what it is like to be singled out and looked upon by the world.

Kennedy’s film uses archival footage, home movies, contemporary scenes, and interviews with his step-father, Bob Hamilton who introduced Laird to the sport, his wife (former volleyball star and model Gabrielle Reece) and his surfing buddies (even those with whom he’s fallen out) and former editors of Surfer Magazine. 

Told in chronological order, the film traces Laird’s early beginnings as a boy raised by his single surfer mother left pregnant by another surfer dude.  When meeting Bob for the first time on the beach, he is shown how to body surf before his mother meets up and ends up marrying Bob.   In his interview on camera, the now middle-aged Laird recounts his rebellious days in school, throwing desks out the classroom window and yelling obscenities while getting the occasional whopping for his stepfather Bob.  As the story goes, Laird finds solace in the ocean.

It is fortunate that Laird’s life is interesting as there is more of his life on show than of surfing footage.  As Laird never competes, there is not competition that needs to be won that often forms the climax of sport documentaries.  So Kennedy relies on a different technique to climax her film – Laird riding the biggest wave EVER.

Hawaii where Laird grew up as a boy is revealed for all its racial prejudice – reverse white prejudice that is.  The was one of the few whites in the class and whites always get beaten up and singed out.

There are tons of good looking blond surfing hunks in this movie.  But the good looks slowly fade just as youth does.  Both Bob and Laird Hamilton are gorgeous hunks in the early twenties.  This led to Laird, who dropped out of school, to get into the modelling business – a part of his life just barely touched upon in the film.

Director Kennedy sidetracks his film just as Laird sidetracks his life on big wave surfing.  Laird is also revealed as an inventor, first of the foil board (a surf board that rides above the water, amazing as it looks due to Physics), then of the board strap, that enables surfers to do summersaults while being attached to their boards.

The film also brings into the picture, the invention of both the jet ski and the windsurf.  Laird and his gang tackled the new sport of windsurfing (I myself tried it too, – and it is not easy), but gradually went back to big wave surfing.

TAKE EVERY WAVE is a documentary that ends up as interesting as Laird the man.  The best scenes are the ones with the biggest waves.  Director Kennedy has done his research and TAKE EVRY MAN is as exhaustive as any filmmaker can get on Laird.


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