Laird Hamilton: for the Hawaiian waterman, foiling is just surfing

Laird Hamilton and his crew embarked on a plane to Portugal to surf the giant waves of Nazaré on hydrofoil surfboards.

The Hawaiian waterman, alongside Benny Ferris, Luca Padua, and Terry Chung, followed the swell that hit the Portuguese coastline in mid-February and scored epic waves.

"The vibe here in Nazaré is kind of like if you've ever seen or read The Hobbit. There's the happy little river town next to the big mountain, and inside the mountain is where the dragon lives," explains Ferris.

"And you have this town with these happy, simple people going about their business. But in the deep and the wilderness, there's the dragon, and it shows itself sometimes - that dragon is Nazaré's surf spot."

Hamilton and his friends were greeted by splendid conditions for foil surfing.

There were plenty of big, glassy waves marching from the horizon and arriving like trains at rush hour.

"The great thing about the hydrofoil is that it opens up opportunities and places that wouldn't be normally looked at in," adds Laird Hamilton.

Nazaré: Laird Hamilton and friends go foil surfing at Praia do Norte

The New Nazaré Spot

The tow-in surfing pioneer ended up discovering an alternative spot at Praia do Norte.

"It was a different wave. It was a wave that you wouldn't look at unless you were a foiler because it was too fast, and you wouldn't make it, or could you catch it as early."

"So we got to ride a wave where we were the only ones out. We had an incredible day, and again, it speaks to what the foil offers."

"The irony is that it was a spot right next to 'the spot.' It really isn't a spot until you come there and do what we were able to do. So now, that's a spot - for us, at least."

Laird Hamilton, 56, had traveled over 8,000 miles from Hawaii to Portugal to try his luck. Fortunately, on that particular day, the angle of the swell and the conditions were absolutely perfect.

"We woke up in the morning, and we saw this thing marching way out to sea. We were like, never mind the left by that cliff. We're going out there, and sure enough, the thing was just unbelievable," states Ferris.

"It's slick as ice. You're on a moving liquid surface, and it takes a lot of experience and a lot of practice to be able to pull that off," describes Terry Chung.

"What happens when you move at that speed is that your mind slows things down to be able to cope with that speed."

"You actually go into a zen mind thought to slow things down so you can gain control over your situation."

When the forecasted big Monday rolled around, the team said to itself: "No expectations, no disappointments."

Foil surfing: riding the giant waves of Nazaré

Foil Surfing: A Tool That Is Yet to Be Mastered

They believe the time to ride the big wave will present itself - you can't force it.

The truth is that the waves came and, after a few hours, they got to ride  "the big one. It felt like being at home on a giant day in Hawaii."

The goal was to position themselves in a better and more critical position, try to get on the wave as early as they possibly could, and ultimately enjoy a longer and bigger one.

"A great Hawaiian waterman Brian Keaulana, who's more like a Hawaiian King, once said: 'Don't define me by my equipment,'" notes Hamilton.

"I think that's one of the things that holds us back is when we start stereotyping equipment and people. Foiling is surfing. Terry Chung surfed his whole life, I've surfed my whole life, Benny surfed his whole life, Lucas surfed his whole life, and this is surfing."

"This is more like surfing than anything I've ever done, and that's why I'm doing it. Bodysurfing, boogie boarding, kneeboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, longboarding, tow-in, and foiling - this is all surfing.

"And that's just another tool in my box, just one instrument that I haven't quite got the control over it that I would like. And I think that's what keeps driving me."

"Personally, I just haven't quite got the handle. I just haven't quite gotten it where I think I could be. And that'll just drive me, make me train hard, make me sleep early, make me eat good, make me try to be a better person," concludes Laird Hamilton.

Top Stories

Umm Suqeim Beach, also known as Sunset Beach, is the home of surfing in Dubai. Here's why and how the Emirati surf break became a swell magnet in the region.

AllWaves is a new wave pool technology from Belgium that allows surfing on an artificial lake, thus bringing surfing experiences closer to enthusiasts and landlocked surfers.

Welcome to "The End of the Road," one of the nicknames for the Paris 2024 Olympic surfing venue, Teahupoo.

There is a big difference and many steps between prohibiting and allowing an action or behavior when one faces an extreme or hazardous situation.