As part of a recent piece I was assigned to write for Waiola Magazine about surfing on the North Shore of Kauai, I was asked to interview Bill "Billy" Hamilton who Surfer Magazine in 1985 named one of "25 Surfers Whose Surfing Changed the Sport." He happens to have a shaping shop literally around the corner from my house on Kauai, and I ventured over with pastries in hand to chat with him about his career and what he's up to now.
Bill Hamilton now shapes boards for both functional use and as art, some pricing upwards of $50,000 each and the stories he has of his years on the water are beyond noteworthy. What I loved most about talking with him was his warmth and insights.
When I first walked into his shop, he immediately said, "Hey, I've seen you out on the water, haven't I?" My inner response was, "Shoot," because after over half a decade of surfing, I still feel like such a beginner when I paddle out. Towards the end of our interview, that's precisely what we talked about, and in a few follow-up email interactions, Bill has shown his depth of caring. He's also encouraged me that it's okay to make mistakes, that when he was learning new moves, "How many times would I fall off the wave? Hundreds!"
There's no shame in that and because of it, I've started having so much more fun on the water. Sure, there are pros out or people who are pretty darn close, but as another surfer I interviewed shared with me, "The person who's the best surfer out there is the one who's having the most fun."
More on what Bill wrote to me here at my Facebook page:
#Surfing is hard for me. For so many reasons. It requires me to be humble that I don't know how to do something so well in front of others (many of whom are WAY better than me), it teaches me to get out of my head & be fully present, it reminds me to stop being so hard on myself and just have some ]*|%}!* #fun! That's just the start -- there's #fear of drowning or hurting myself or, hello, sharks.
A week or so ago, I was so fed up with the sport. More accurately, with myself. I couldn't paddle to the line-up when the #surf wasn't even that big; I ate it a bunch of times the next day & couldn't catch a ride; by the third day, I just said, "F this, I give up." How the hell would I ever #teach my #daughter if I couldn't read conditions right or have patience & be okay with making mistakes? How would I ever paddle out with her? Would she have to learn from someone else? "Y'know what?" I thought to myself. I'm going to email #billhamilton bc he was so nice to me during our interview. "Would you be willing to do a trade? Teach me how to be a better #surfer and I can help you pen the #book publishers have been asking you about?" I asked.
His response came quick & excited -- "OK, you're on!" But that wasn't it. Here's how he also helped #inspire me: "I made a quote that you can think about. The circumference of your life is not based upon your longitude or latitude but your attitude. It will help for you just to breathe like when you were having your baby... to really just relax & let the joy of being alive enter your spirit. Being in the water, the act of going there is really a blessing & should be treated as such. Fear is not a good friend to take with you to any place or time. Hang fear up in the deepest corner of your closet and forget about it. Your best friend is you. So take her out and find real pleasure in the ocean. Play like a child in it and pass on that joy to your loved ones. I have given you some wisdom here. Hold it and think about it and just be happy you can go there. It's quite simple to just let go of your nerves and grow big strong wings. Get it? Happy holidays to each and all. See you in January. #Aloha, Bill"
And then someone said to me, "So you're going to have the same teacher as #LairdHamilton?"
"Ohmigoodness, yes!!" I replied. I hadn't about it that way. Well now, if that doesn't make me a better surfer, what will?