Surfing Legend Laird Hamilton on How to Live Forever
“People take on the forces of nature because that’s when we feel most alive.”
— Laird Hamilton
On a quest to cling to youth and everything that comes with it—health, agility, focus, strength—legendary waterman Laird Hamilton has forged a career from pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
It seems incredulous that someone of Laird’s age continues to shape not only surfing, but other sports and industries, in a significant way. When determining what the world needs, Laird focuses on what he knows best – he looks at how the forces of nature can be harnessed and then applied to an industry in desperate need of change. His most recent innovation, the GolfBoard, was conceived to revitalize a tired sport and attract a new generation of players; in 2014 it was voted New Product of the Year by the PGA.
So, at 52 years young, what can a man most famous for taming waves taller than eight-story buildings impart on the rest of the world? A lot, as it turns out. In a recent interview with the LA Times, Laird opened up about his greatest mission – to prolong mortality.
Enter Laird Hamilton to share his 10-point plan to live forever.
Shaking up the golf world | Photo: GolfBoard
1. Forget age. Just keep driving the car.
I take better care of myself today, not as an accommodation to age, but to maintain continual high levels of performance and just to feel good. I think what happens is that we decide we’re old and we just stop, and everything stops working. There’s so much stigma and weirdness around being older. Get over it — and keep moving. Don’t wait until you have a health scare or collapse.
2. Take care of every day priorities.
The stuff you do every day, these are your priorities — not a fancy car or fancy clothes or fancy watches. For instance, I used to drink red wine every day, but haven’t had a sip of wine or beer in nine years, and have no desire to. I realized that sugar is not good for your body and that alcohol is one of the biggest culprits. It’s a discipline thing, too. As proof to myself that I had the willpower, I don’t do it. Bottom line: If you want your rocket to fly, you put rocket fuel in it.
“If you want your rocket to fly, you put rocket fuel in it.”
3. Become a fat-burning monster.
My body runs off its body fat. That’s because I’m Paleo. I consume hardly any refined sugar (only if it’s in a salad dressing), a few raw dairy products, and almost no wheat or grains. I eat plants and animals. Paul Chek [one of the world’s leading wellness experts] taught me that your body has enough fat on it to run for days and that sugar fouls up your machinery. So after I cut alcohol, I began eliminating sugar and sugary fruit. If you’re eating right, a triathlete can go for hours and hours on a couple tablespoons of almond butter and your own body fat.
Day in the office | Photo: Tim McKenna
4. But don’t be a zealot.
I have a saying: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” I make it achievable, not stressful for me and people around me. My eating is not such a hassle that I can’t go anywhere.
5. Golf-ball your bare feet.
I grew up barefoot in Hawaii and didn’t give a thought to walking on gravel, but I’d notice some people who’d been in shoes their whole life couldn’t even cross the driveway. The feet are loaded with nerve endings and are the key to balance — and I’m in the balance business. In fact, we all are. To restore dexterity and balance after I’ve been in shoes too long, I warm up a couple days a week by standing with one foot on a golf ball. I roll it around, poke it, put weight into tender spots. It’s amazing how your system will be stimulated through working your feet.
“The feet are loaded with nerve endings and are the key to balance — and I’m in the balance business.”
6. Watch your back.
I’ve had back issues and injuries over the years. When your back goes out, you’re out of commission. I give it relief with stretching and inversion, and strengthen it with core work and stand-up paddle boarding. Someone once said, “If you did 20 minutes of headstands a day, you probably wouldn’t age.” Gravity is always pulling us down, and inversion fights it. Since your power comes out of your core, which supports the back, you have to fix tight psoases and weak abdominals. I do planks and rotational exercises with medicine balls and kettlebells on a Swiss ball. Any natural pick-lift-twist-drop movement pattern, like picking something off the ground and putting it on a shelf, builds core stability. The best one of all? Stand-up paddleboarding. It flexes the back and the stabilizers — and cured me.
7. Do the water workout from hell.
To me, swimming laps in a pool is like punishment – being in a cage. Out of my disdain for lap swimming, I developed what in my opinion is the greatest exercise routine you can possibly do: a bouncing, no-impact, high-intensity strength and cardio workout that is a cross between swimming and weightlifting. The exercise blasts your legs, which consume five times the oxygen as your arms. It‘ll make you a better, stronger swimmer without having to swim laps.
“To me, swimming laps in a pool is like punishment – being in a cage.”
Laird’s age-defying water workout | Instagram
8. Be innovative in all aspects of life.
Coming up with new ideas keeps me young and excited. I think traveling to unique places gives you an opportunity to be active.
9. Get role models.
It’s monkey see, monkey do. It’s hard to be the monkey that doesn’t see. We all need an example, a road map. When your friends get older and say, “I want to go play some bridge, you say, ‘I don’t think so — I want to go jump off the bridge.’”
“You’ll do more reps in nature than you’ll ever do in the gym.”
10. Make it fun.
Having as much fun as humanly possible is one of the keys to staying young, so find fun, physical activities you love. I forget about the time when I’m out there on a stand-up paddleboard. Activities are better than the gym because you’re not looking at the clock. You’ll do more reps in nature than you’ll ever do in the gym. You’ll go for hours and hours. And you’ll be thinking healthy thoughts, not about how old you are.