Thursday, October 19, 2017

When life becomes one big wave

In the surfing subculture, Laird Hamilton remains a star. Director Rory Kennedy's documentary -- Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton -- tells Hamilton's story, tracing the surfer's life from a difficult, rebellious childhood to a lifetime of tackling big waves. We're talking the kind of gigantic swells that most of us would prefer to watch from the safety of shore. Kennedy understands that nothing will top the movie's surfing footage and she offers enough of it to produce the expected gasps. Hamilton, who's now 52, is widely recognized as an innovator in surfing, and Kennedy is careful to show that there's discipline involved in his search for excellence, not to mention a flood of injuries that might have retired others to the nearest sofa. Hamilton, who has his detractors, has taken stabs at other activities -- a badly received 1987 surfing movie called North Shore and a bit of modeling, for example. But nothing ever replaced surfing, an activity that required him to develop what he calls "a relationship with fear." None of this is to say that Hamilton has no life away from his surfboard; Kennedy spends time with professional volleyball player Gabrielle Reece, the woman who has been Hamilton's wife for the last 20 years. She tells us that their marriage has had its "bumpy periods," but also says that when Laird arrives home, he's present. At almost two hours, the movie feels a trifle long, including a section on a video venture that Hamilton and his partners launched and which eventually dissolved in a wake of bad feelings. But Take Every Wave emerges as an intriguing study of a man who has organized his life around a highly concentrated passion that continues to propel him in his search for new and challenging waves to ride.

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