Surfer comes home

LIHUE — Big wave surfing legend Laird Hamilton is coming home.

Actually, the famous wave rider is building a home — on the Hanalei property where he lived as a child.

Hamilton said he and his wife built another home on Maui in 2008, but he still spends half of his time on Kauai, and wanted to build a home where he grew up.

The two-story, single-family residence is on the property Hamilton has owned on Kauai for several years.

“When the Maui house was finished I really wanted to come back to Kauai where I grew up,” he said. “I wanted to bring the kids back here and let them experience the lifestyle and energy of this island.”

It has been almost 19 years since he met his wife, Gabrielle Reece, a former volleyball star and model. He said they spend their summers at a Malibu home and migrate to Hawaii during the big wave season. They have two young daughters.

He said part of the delay was the change in the laws concerning flood plains and tidal zones, which complicated building on the North Shore.

The couple is working with the Honolulu architectural firm of Avery Youn. The home construction is listed at $1,548,100. A separate permit for a 10-foot retaining wall to solve the zoning issue has a $63,800 price tag.

“My wife and I designed this to be a functional house that wasn’t too complicated, and it’s basically about living comfortably versus the look of it,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he focused on things like the foundation and the beams. His wife took charge of the colors and textures of the interior. The permits were again approved by the county on Oct. 17 and they are still working to hire a contractor.

What else is he up to?

Hamilton is working on several projects, including a line of fitness programs and a new “GolfBoard” described as a stand-up personal golf cart. The electric vehicle has four tires but the rider stands on a center board not much wider than the shoulders.

It is a much healthier approach to golf and Hamilton says that in a way it’s a “glorified skateboard.”

“It does less damage to the course and presents a new way to play golf,” Hamilton said. “We have had a good response from the golf community and that is giving it a big push.”

The Hamilton brand of stand-up paddleboards and gear is continuing with a new line for this season. It is a recreational activity that resembles the Hawaiian and Polynesian traditions.

Change and progress is slow, and Hamilton said he had no hesitation about moving forward with the “marriage of the outrigger paddling and surfing. There was negative backlash from some Mainland circles that didn’t like seeing so many non-surfers out using the boards.

“The ‘blame me’ campaign started and I took that as a compliment,” Hamilton said. “I said ‘blame me’ for all that fun you’re having and liked the idea of turning a negative into a positive.”

In the end, he said paddleboarding is an example of how to use the oceans and waterways more responsively. It is a way to conduct oneself in the water that is in tune with the environment.

The 49-year-old Hamilton said he has no designs on slowing down his big wave surfing.

“Big wave riding is still in the forefront of my passion and my psyche, even with the family and everything else going on,” Hamilton said. “I train all year for it, and I design equipment for it.”

He is constantly looking at surf locations around the world — France, Spain and the Basque area of Portugal — whether it means paddling out to the waves or pushing the limits for the tow-in techniques he is credited with helping to invent.

“We are always looking at riding the biggest waves and the winter in Hawaii, obviously, has some of the biggest surges in the world,” he said. “I am always thinking about the Hawaii conditions and what the winter will bring us, and now that we are at the start of the season I am excited.”


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