An infomercial slowly bubbles up to the surface from the shallows of Rory Kennedy’s documentary Take Every Wave — The Life Of Laird Hamilton. The Academy Award-nominated director of Last Days in Vietnam (2014) begins her film with an attempt at myth making. Shortly after Hamilton’s mother Joann gave birth to him in an “experimental salt-water sphere,” his father left them both. This origin story, rivaling Aquaman’s, is meant to account for his mastery over the ocean. The found footage — including what seems like every gnarly wave Hamilton has ever triumphed over — includes extensive analyses of his successful rides on Maui’s Peahi (Jaws) and Tahiti’s Teahupoo, remarkable feats that confirmed his status as the greatest big wave rider of his generation.
In chronological order, we also learn about his accomplishments on dry land, including his brief career as an actor (North Shore) and model — most memorably on a Bruce Weber photoshoot with Brooke Shields — plus his own line of beach wear and innovations in foilboarding. Kennedy interviews a group of surfers who mastered the art of tow-in surfing together with Hamilton as their Big Kahuna. They’re all still miffed that he shut the collective down, but none of them overtly criticize the former leader of their pack. Like the director, they are as in awe of his inspiring talents and aura of cool as they are of his ability to commodify them.
Take Every Wave — The Life Of Laird Hamilton
Opens Friday at Opera Plaza Cinema.