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Boys go wild in videos

Afraid to tackle Maverick's or Jaws or any big wave? Fear not, there's no shortage of footage to get your thrills vicariously.

September 09, 2003|Pamm Higgins | Times Staff Writer

Most surfers don't have the guts to get dragged into a 60-footer. So the surf industry caters to voyeurs through a home-video genre widely known as action porn.

Dozens of titles sold in surf shops and online showcase surfers -- often pros, or "performance seals" in industry parlance -- carving waves far beyond the technical or geographic reach of everyday riders. And one surfer in particular is a self-made star.

Laird Hamilton, the 39-year-old co-producer and star of "Strapped," "Wake-up Call" and "Laird," is the god of big waves to surfers and the Godiva of eye candy to many of the fans who snap up his videos. The Maui break called Peahi, or Jaws, has been his primary show-off spot.

The filmmakers who swarm marquee breaks such as Jaws and Maverick's have had their pick of footage of big-wave specialists Mike Parsons, Brad Gerlach and Ken "Skindog" Collins. But Hamilton discourages the use of his image. The beaches are a public arena, and he's a public figure, so there's no way to legally restrict access. Instead, Hamilton asks photographers and videographers to sign an agreement to leave him out of their final cut, giving his own production team exclusives. Never mind that beefcake fans aside, most viewers watch videos such as "Year of the Drag-in," "Whipped!!!" and "Maverick's: a Documentary Film" to see the pile-driving waves, not Hamilton's star turns.

Hamilton did sign on to appear in a couple of theatrical releases, Dana Brown's critical hit "Step Into Liquid" and a still-untitled big-wave project by director Stacy Peralta ("Dogtown and Z-Boys"). Increasingly, though, making any kind of surf movie means running up against oversize egos, with Hamilton justifiably the king of them all. "Laird treats [his image] as seriously as he does the full-time job he's in," Peralta said. "He doesn't let anyone use him."

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