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Original Issue

Q+A: Laird Hamilton

The big-wave surfer, 41, has his own film company and is married to volleyball star Gabrielle Reece

SI: Let's say your parents, Bill and Joann, had been insurance salesmen from Wisconsin instead of surfers. Would you be a big-wave surfer today?

Hamilton: Probably not. Maybe I'd be a linebacker, though.

SI: What's your earliest surfing memory?

Hamilton: A friend of my mom's was taking me on a board, and I fell off and got both my butt cheeks impaled on sea urchins. I remember being three years old and not being able to sit for, like, two weeks.

SI: How did growing up in Hawaii shape who you are?

Hamilton: I grew up at Pipeline, one of the heaviest beaches in the world. Then I went to Kauai, to one of the heaviest beaches in the world. That made me understand what the ocean is capable of. My comfort level in the ocean is substantially different from 99 percent of people out there.

SI: You and NHL All-Star Chris Chelios were recently in Lake Placid learning to bobsled with an eye toward one day making the Greek Olympic team. How'd it go?

Hamilton: It beat the crap out of me. After I experienced it, I had a different appreciation for what those guys do.

SI: Your wife has been attempting to qualify for the LPGA tour. Where does that quest stand?

Hamilton: Right now she has a slight distraction--our new baby daughter, Reece. But I think she'll resume her quest.

SI: What's next for your production company?

Hamilton: We're doing a trilogy, a saga about what is happening in the surfing world. And we're also looking to do an IMAX film.

SI: Ever feel like you are risking death in doing what you do?

Hamilton: No. In doing what I do, I feel like I'm living life.

--Richard Deitsch