Laird's Laws

17 commandments from water god Laird Hamilton, who says fear is good, failure isn't bad, and you should treat your body like a truck, not a temple

The Icon: Laird Hamilton in Malibu, California.     Photo: Peggy Sirota

  1. I base everything on how I feel. You can tell me, if you're 43 years old and six foot this, that's going to do that to you, this will do this but your body is the best instrument for reading how things affect you.
  2. You want strength that you can actually control and apply. When you sit down on an exercise machine, with your back against a chair, you tend to shut down the rest of your body. When you stand up and your body has to hold a position to actually support the weight, you'll have a hard time. So you need to incorporate other elements. I'll do machines where I hold my legs up, or stretch while I'm on them, or add leg lifts while I'm doing presses.
  3. It's really about keeping in shape for life. Think about your body like a car. Once you park a car, it might not start again. But if you just keep driving it, it'll keep going. It likes to be driven.
  4. If it's potato chips in, it's potato chips out. You eat garbage, you're probably going to perform like garbage.
  5. Vacation is an opportunity to get in a good routine. It's like mini boot camp. I just got back from a heli-snowboarding trip in Alaska. I'd been wanting to work on my legs, so I go up there and board all day for 12 days. If we didn't get enough, we'd chop firewood or take hikes in deep snow. I come out of that and my legs feel strong.
  6. This is something I'm trying to learn: how to rest. Going full steam ahead all the time is not always the most productive approach, because then you're always trying to play catch-up with recovery.
  7. You have to go and try different stuff. The thing is, when you reach a certain level in any sport, you become so efficient at it that the effort level is really diminished. Your body has adapted. So what are you getting? Snowboarding has helped my surfing. Windsurfing has helped my surfing. Biking, for sure, has helped my surfing.
  8. Above everything, sleep. I'm an eight-to-ten-hour guy. Not that I can't operate with less, but for my overall well-being, I gotta have at least eight.
  9. I like espresso. It's good stuff.
  10. I have friends who eat healthier than anybody, but it takes them all day. And if they don't have their sprouted bread, they go into a seizure. I can eat a Big Mac. I'm not going to love it, but it won't put me into toxic shock. It's like if a car is too high-performance, then it's sensitive to any kind of fuel. I like being more like a truck. If a little diesel gets in there, maybe a little water, it'll cough and burp a bit, but it's gonna get through it and keep running.
  11. Chew more. That'll probably do more for your ability to absorb nutrients from your food than just about anything.
  12. It's always more enjoyable to train with other people. It's going to be more stimulating, but it also pushes you because you have accountability. You can't just think, Oh, that was enough. Your partner will say, "That was only 29. I thought we were doing 30."
  13. Fear is an unbelievable motivator, but it also makes people freeze in their tracks. Once you start to understand it, fear becomes something you can tap into. Fear comes from the understanding that you can die. It usually makes me make really good decisions and gives me power.
  14. If you aren't able to be scared, you either haven't been hurt or you're completely ignorant.
  15. We are each our own greatest inhibitor. People don't want to do new things if they think they're going to be bad at them or people are going to laugh at them. You have to be willing to subject yourself to failure, to be bad, to fall on your head and do it again, and try stuff that you've never done in order to be the best you can be.
  16. Schedule training in the morning so that normal daily chaos—long meetings, family demands, traffic—won't end your workout before it begins. Plus, you'll jump-start your metabolism, meaning you'll burn more calories (even while sitting behind a desk), feel better all day, and work more efficiently.
  17. In the end, if you're still just there, doing it, you win.

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