Hawaiian Laird Hamilton had a great surf at Raglan last week yet scarcely caught a single breaking wave. Instead he was catching the swell beyond Indies, even riding it all the way to the beach, while being filmed from a helicopter overhead as crowds watched from the shoreline.
The big-wave surfer – renowned for conquering Tahiti’s Teahupo’o break back in the year 2000 – was hydrofoiling here for the first time on a brief visit to town and was, by all accounts, having a blast.
Raglan surfing legend Daniel Kereopa – who’d been hired by Surfing NZ to “drive the camera guys around” on a jetski – told the Chronicle it was an incredible experience both for Laird, who’d never before surfed in New Zealand, and for himself.
Raglan is good for hydrofoiling – an innovative form of surfing in which the rider is above the wave thanks to a unique hydrofoil blade beneath the surface – because, as DK explains, “you don’t need a good wave, you just need a nice building swell”.
So while there wasn’t much happening in the surf close to shore that day, Laird was having the time of his life way offshore to where he’d been towed by jetski. And DK got to drive another jetski – cameraman on board – alongside Laird as he rode the top of the peaks.
It’s an “awesome” experience, says DK who’s done his own fair share of hydrofoiling here. And being so far out, catching the space outside the breaking wave, means surfers are neither “wasting the swell” nor getting in the way of others.
But the type of equipment used is “totally different” from that of traditional surfing, he adds.
The 48-year-old Laird, who helped pioneer hydrofiling, came to Raglan a month ago to do a recce before returning last week for the real thing. The invention of hydrofoiling, he says on his website, has created the ability to ride waves that don’t break and to surf waves that were really unsurfable.
“Now we can ride a ground swell in the middle of the ocean.”