Finding The Motivation To Stay In Shape: A Conversation With Big Wave Surfer Laird Hamilton

Laird Hamilton posing for me, FS, Oahu, 2013

It’s hard to stay in shape as we get older. We move around less, our family demands more of our time, and our jobs stress us out to the point where we eat too much comfort food.

I’m about 10 pounds heavier that I was during college. I always tell myself it’s due to more muscle, but I know it’s a lie because I hardly ever lift weights anymore. When you no longer need to be in incredible shape because you’ve found someone who likes you just the way you are, why bother? All I do is play tennis and do the occasional push-ups and sit-ups now.

Motivation is something I’m perpetually looking for because my motivation meter never seems to stay full. I sometimes feel the paradox of freedom where America allows for a relatively correlated path to attaining what we want. If I want to get six pack abs, I’ll cut out the sweets and do 500 sit-ups every day for three months in a row. If I want to make more money, I’ll work harder at executing new ideas. I really don’t think there’s very much that’s inhibiting our progress other than ourselves.

Stay In Shape With Laird Hamilton

I just finished boogie boarding at “The Walls” in Waikiki beach, Oahu when I bumped into Laird Hamilton. Laird is the co-inventor of tow-in surfing and is considered one of the best big wave rider of our time. Take a look at the video below to see Laird successfully ride a 50 foot, cylindrical beast at Teahupoo. It’s sick!

At 6’3” and 215lbs, Laird is absolutely ripped. You know those board shorts without elastic bands that squeeze any fat you have around your belly even if you’re relatively thin already? Laird doesn’t have that problem. What’s particularly inspiring is that Laird is 49 years old and is in better shape than 99.9% of folks out there. When he turns 50, you’ll know he’ll still be in the same great shape.

I talked with Laird about his charity work for kids with autism as well as his secret to staying so fit. He basically said to cut out the refined carbs (pancakes, waffles, bagels, pasta, rice, cereal) and stick with complex carbs, organic fruits, and vegetables. Have a taste of dessert if you wish, but don’t eat the whole thing he said. Makes sense. We also got to talking briefly about our mutual love of the ocean before another fan requested his attention.

Everybody should know by now that processed foods and refined sugars are the worst thing for someone who wants to get lean. It just feels better coming from a legend himself.

After taking a couple photos with Laird I went on my way with a friend to get some Ono’s Hawaiian food on Kapahulu. We kept on thinking, “What would Laird eat?” So we decided to skip the salt meat watercress soup and haupia and stick with fresh poke and butterfish luau instead.

Stay In Shape Motivation Going Way Up!

It’s frustrating to always have to recharge the motivation meter. Although I don’t wish for anything bad to happen to change my ways, I clearly see the benefits of getting “scared straight.”

Perhaps that scary moment is getting your first mini-stroke at the age of 40 to eat better. Or maybe it’s as simple as investing all your net worth in the stock market and having years of saving get cut in half in a matter of months to make you diversify more. Whatever the case may be, I’m thankful to have bumped into Laird.

Besides the motivation to get back into the best shape possible, Laird also reminded me that so much of the best things in life are inexpensive or free. The waves will always come for anybody who dares to take them on. The mountains will always stand majestically for any hiker whose knees will allow. The West Coast is the best coast, but I think I love Hawaii even more.

From now until a potential summer boondoggle in Barcelona, I plan to get back into the best shape possible. I’m not eating better out of guilt or for anybody. I’m selfishly getting fit for myself.

I do not want to not live because of the fear of what could happen,” Laird Hamilton.

Recommendation For All Parents

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33 thoughts on “Finding The Motivation To Stay In Shape: A Conversation With Big Wave Surfer Laird Hamilton”

  1. Readers, any random encounter ever inspire you to regain your motivation?

    – He doesn’t know it, but it often happens in simple conversations with my boss. Just an amazing guy.

    How is your motivation meter? If you feel it’s low, or declines quicker than you like, what are some of the things you do to get the meter back up or slow the fall?
    – On the exercise front it is NON-EXISTENT! I am trying to figure how to get it at least a little bit. On the money front I just figured out a way to keep me interested. I started doing smaller goals. Not the 1 year goal but rather allocating $5K worth of savings/investing at a time. About 6 weeks in I have regained my charge.

    1. Nice. You should let your boss know how much you appreciate him. Y taking him out to lunch one day out of the blue and just tell him!

      Just say no to pizza and soda and all will be good!

  2. Awesome post man! What’s great about talking with Laird is that the dude wasn’t trying to sell anything and wasn’t endorsed by whatever, you and him were just shooting the sh!t and you got the info you did. Makes it believable.

    Yeah I hate when people say they can’t get in shape because they cant’ afford it. I always think” seriously?” because you can find stairs anywhere, and hiking trails and roads to walk on and heavy things to lift. There’s all sorts of body wegith stuff too. People who say they aren’t in shape because they cant’ afford it are ridiculous.

  3. Tony G. Sanchez

    When I started 2 months ago, my motivation was to get to a healthy BMI. I had been slightly overweight for the past two years and overweight for at least four years before that. I hit the normal BMI range a week and a half ago. I’ve lost (seemingly) a lot of fat from my arms, legs, waist and back and paired with the strength training I do I now have a more muscular-looking body. Now my motivation is to look as trim and lean as possible. Another goal of mine is to finally feel comfortable wearing a bikini. I think I’m real close to that goal…too bad I don’t have any bikinis lol.

  4. It’s hard to say no to free food! I just had a nice salad for lunch yesterday, and Super Duper burger was giving out free burgers at 3pm, so I said, OK!

    Laird’s body fat percentage is probably around 6% or less as I’m at 15%. Was once around 8%.

  5. Such a great shot of inspiration when you needed it. Love those moments. I am really active on the YouTube weight loss community. I met a guy who was over 400 lbs who was working out daily, that made me stop and say Jules,You are 153 lbs…if he can stay motivated to do this, u sure can. So I got back to it. Ups and downs, I find moments like these always happen at the perfect time:)

  6. I am 32 and I admit that I am not always the most healthy. I gained weight due to the crazy hours at work to get a promotion and I GOT IT!! Right after that promotion, I vowed to myself to loss the weight – which I did. I’m now 60 lbs lighter ( at my college weight) and I vowed to always make time to stay fit. This includes blocking my calendar to allow time to weight lift in the mornings – Mon/Wed/Fri. All my early morning calls are on Tues/Thurs.

    My motivation – staying as fit as I can to hopefully keep health care costs down in the future.

    1. Congrats on the promo! Good thing we can all get back to fighting weight if we have the will.

      You won’t have to worry about health care costs now that universal healthcare is rolling out. The rich will take care of us! :)

  7. First Gen American

    That was an awesome documentary. I’m always inspired by entrepreneurs. Their ability to take risks, fail and then get back up again and do it again and again until they succeed is the heart of what America is all about.

    Extreme sports are not inspiring anymore. Too many of the great mountaineers/rock climbers that I looked up to are dead and it’s sad to know that pushing the envelope often leads to your demise. When your sports magazine has an obituary section that is less inspiring now that I have children of my own. It breaks my heart when someone leaves behind a family of young kids in pursuit of that next new conquest.

    1. Good point about extreme sports and growing obituaries. Kind of sad actually. Yes, entrepreneurs like the founder of Pandora who got rejected over 200 times by VCs is one of my inspirations.

  8. I’ve read studies that show that your willpower is like a battery and each day, you have only a certain amount of it. And, when you’re older, you have so many things competing for your time that your mental battery dies down just by doing your daily things.

    The same study also says that you can increase the size of your willpower battery, though, through using it and doing things that are difficult for you.

    My theory is it’s mostly this situation, and not “metabolism”, that is responsible for people getting a little soft when they age. This surfer guy seems to validate that.

  9. Giddings Plaza FI

    Laird looks amazing–well, him plus Hawaii. I’m in pretty good shape, but not excellent. I exercise a lot, but could definitely lose 10 more pounds (and am doing so!). When I quit my corporate gig late last year, one of the decisions I made was to stay as healthy as possible so that health care costs would never force me to go back to a corporation just for the good insurance.

      1. Giddings Plaza FI

        Why Giddings Plaza? :

        I worked for about fifteen years as both a contractor and an FTE for a large software company. I was shooting for retiring early, in 3 – 4 years. Although I’ll still be retiring early, I’ve pushed that time out by a year or two by taking a sabbatical and spending some of my savings. Why’d I quit? Relentless stress, relentless hours, relentless fear-based behavior that’s generated by corporate culture. I finally had a health scare and took that as a sign to jump ship. I’m now back in the game, but working from home free lance, and much fewer hours. And still saving towards early FI!

  10. Hi Sam,

    That is a great video. I can truly attest to the diet that Laird mentions… I have cut down on the refined carbohydrates a lot, and stuck to more vegetables, fruits and proteins- dairy is ok for me… that combined with a few days of fasting (5 so far this year) has caused my weight to go down to 183 lbs from the 205 lbs at the beginning of the year. Another 10 – 15 to go and I’ll be back to great shape.

    I am still exercising 6 days a week like before but in this case diet really did make all the difference.


    1. Wow, 22 lbs / 10% of your body weight is a huge loss. Congrats!

      For two days, I’ve been really watching what I eat, and am eating less. Then a Chicago deep dish five topping pizza commercial popped on the TV screen. Good thing the pizza parlor was closed at midnight!

  11. It’s definitely hard to keep motivation going when you are trying to lose weight. Everyone is always psyched in the beginning and then it wanes. I can usually control what I eat relatively easily but I always hate going for a run. Honestly, it’s not that it’s painful, it’s just that it takes up time. I need to get a treadmill and write while walking on that, haha. I’m crazy, I know. ;) Hope you have a great time!

  12. Ha I love that pic! Man I hope I’m as fit as he is when I’m 49! It’s absolutely mind boggling how incredible a surfer he is. Those waves are insanely huge and seeing him out there look like a tiny dot really makes you realize the true giant size of those waves. Watching footage like that is one of the reasons I knew I had to learn how to surf at least once just to try it and experience being out on the water.

    There’s absolutely nothing like the thrill and rush of catching a wave which I’ve only managed to do a few times. Surfing even tiny waves is so hard lol! I’m trying to stay more active too, especially now that the weather is getting warmer. My body just feels so much better when I’m active. I seem to sleep deeper too when I exercise regularly and then I feel more refreshed the next day. I went on two walks today and exercised my abs, legs, and glutes. I want focus on improving my core strength. Gotta get in shape for summer!

    1. I could not believe the videos of him surfing the monsters. But then when I met him in person and shook his hand, I realized one has to be super fit to catch, ride, and survive those waves.

      Core strength is key! Let’s do planks!

  13. Savvy Financial Latina

    I love working out! I work out about five hours a week, which frankly, I don’t think is enough, considering how much I sit on a daily basis. I think I need to increase my weekly hours! :)

  14. This was hardly random, but I visited my cousin a couple years ago. He is 84 years old! He took up Judo when he was forty years old. He is still in great shape and managed to out walk me all over the city. I can only hope to be just like hi when I am in my eighties.

    1. 84 wow that is so awesome! I’m always inspired by seniors who are super active and I hope to be like them too someday. I also really want to keep my mind sharp as I age so I won’t have to worry about dementia which has affected too many relatives and acquaintances I know. I want to stay independent for as long as possible!!

  15. Sam
    You didn’t order the Mac salad right. That goes straight to the gut. Being in Asia magnified how much weight I have gained so its back to the gym for me.

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