Hamilton's Car Philosophy
Despite his worldwide success and ability to treat himself to a fancy car, Hamilton never yearned for one of his own. But he has had lots of experience driving them.
"I was working with somebody that imported all these fancy cars, so we had Berlinetta Boxers, Silver Shadow II, 911S, so I spent a lot of time driving those cars when I first came to California," Hamilton says. "I just don't first of all care that much about a car to have it have that much meaning, like worrying about a door ding, or where I park it, or how people perceive me. I remember how girls would act all crazy because you drive a Rolls-Royce or a Ferrari and you would be like, 'What kind of girl is that? How great can that girl be if she likes me because of my car?'"
He was also exposed to expensive cars at an even younger age, back in Hawaii. "On the island where I grew up, Clark Gable's stepson was heir to Spreckels Sugar Company, and he had all these Corvettes and El Caminos and fancy cars," he says.
Bunker Spreckels would simply hand him the keys and let drive, even when Hamilton could barely see over the steering wheel.
"So I would take a brand-new fiberglass body Corvette and drive 100 mph down a sand road and spin them out," Hamilton says. "For me, all those experiences around fancy cars maybe satisfied my curiosity and made me realize, 'Hey, at the end of the day, really what are they for?' OK, for going fast. And what happens when you go fast? You usually crash."
There are also less practical uses for such cars, Hamilton says. "Like, 'Where do I put my surfboard and where can I put my machines and where does the equipment go?' The thing can't get out of a mudhole and you can't cross a river with them and you don't drive them on the beach," he says. "All these things that when I had a choice of what kind of vehicle I wanted, I was like 'Well, do I want to waste money on something I barely want to drive and I don't want anybody to park near me?' As much as I appreciate a beautiful Ferrari, the lines and the sound and driving them, at the end, on the day in, day out thing, what is it for?"
Favorite road trip
When Hamilton was about to turn 11, he went on a road trip with his mom that changed his life. "I get goose bumps now -- my mom's since gone, but she took me when I was 11 years old on one of the single greatest road trips that you could go on that I know of," Hamilton says. "We drove from Paris, France, to Bombay, India, for six weeks, and we went through the Khyber Pass and Istanbul, Iran, Iraq. We followed the old Silk Trail."
The Khyber Pass, which connects Pakistan and Afghanistan, was part of the old Silk Road and is one of the oldest mountain passes around.
"That had a huge impact on my life and that was the greatest road trip that I've ever been on," he says. "We had one of those Chevy van campers, the ones that have a van front end with a camper that's built over it."
She had an opportunity to go on the trip and thought it would be a good education to take her son, so she took him out of school for six weeks.
"I remember the border in Afghanistan was just a pipe gate. You could have just driven around it. But that was the border and when we got there, it was shut. So we had to spend the night in some little building at the border of Afghanistan," he recounts. "That was when I had my 11th birthday. I've been back to India after, and I go to France every year for the last more than 20 years."
LairdHamilton.com and GabbyandLaird.com
With Hamilton's website and the one he shares with his wife, they've created a powerhouse fitness brand that doesn't just sell the equipment to live the life they live, but also offers ways to stay healthy the way they do.
They recently launched a nutrition company, TRUition, which offers healthy recipes, articles, and the supplements they take. "The TRUition supplement line is based on supplements that we've used in our careers, that we believe in, and so we started producing our own products," he says.
One of Hamilton's big passions is standup paddleboarding, the fastest-growing board sport in the world. He says he was the first to try it years ago and he's finally making stand-up paddleboards people can buy.
For those who say they don't like the water, or could never surf, this sport offers a way to be part of that larger sport of surfing. "I have a lot of people that don't even like to go in the water, they're scared of it, and now all of sudden they're standing up out of it, above it and they have a whole different perspective of water," he says. "It's really introducing a lot of people to having an experience in the water that wouldn't normally do it, which at the end will result in more people being advocates of trying to protect the ocean and waterways because of their participation."
Hamilton acknowledges the kind of surfing he's known for is a very small part of a larger sport, giving the example of extreme BMX bikers doing flips on a halfpipe compared to just bicycling down the street.
"Surfing is one of a few sports that has such few participants, but such a great business because it's around the lifestyle, and all standup represents is a way for a greater majority of people to experience surfing, to participate in the activity, instead of buying a shirt and clothes around the concept of the lifestyle."
You don't need to be on an ocean to standup paddleboard. "Surfing is a very low percentage of people, because you need to be in a place with waves; you need to have the athleticism to do it," he says. "With standup, you can do it everywhere, and it's an incredible fitness for cross training. You don't need waves. In fact, a greater percentage of people doing it aren't even riding waves, they're either racing or paddling distance. For me, it allows me to do things that I haven't done in surfing, so people say it's easy. But if you saw what we do, maybe it's not that easy. We're trying to ride bigger and bigger waves; people are going down rivers and rapids on it."
Hamilton says standup paddleboard may be the closest thing to what surfing originally was. "The industry of surfing has promoted this one style of surfing which is probably further away from the actual discipline of surfing that the ancient Hawaiians practiced, and I believe that standup is probably closer to that than what the surfing media, the magazines, the companies, everything that they promote is this one little discipline of surfing."
Standup can also be a way to easily connect to nature. "The ocean is for everyone, and surfers would want to kill me for saying that, because it's already too crowded at surf spots," he says. "But it's everybody's human right to experience being in the ocean. Everybody is a water person. It's all about your introduction. We're made of water; we all gravitate towards it."