Log In   ·   Become A Member

INTERVIEW: Director Rory Kennedy On "Take Every Wave: The Life Of Laird Hamilton"

Nicole Barylski

On Friday, August 4, Hamptons International Film Festival's (HIFF) SummerDocs continues with Director Rory Kennedy's Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton. Screening at Gurney's Montauk Resort & Spa in Montauk at 8:30 p.m., viewers will enjoy a remarkable journey that explores the life and unparalleled career of big wave surfer Laird Hamilton.

We recently caught up with Kennedy to discuss the iconic surfer, filming, and more.

"Laird and Gabby will be in attendance, and I'm looking forward to being there as well," Kennedy told Hamptons.com.

As a filmmaker, what attracted you to story Laird's story?

RK: I have done mostly films about social issues over the course of my career so this is definitely a different kind of film for me and a new challenge. I've always been interested in people who push themselves to their limits and are the best at what they do and Laird certainly fit that description. And, frankly, I love big wave films. I think there's something really cool about people that challenge themselves on these enormous waves, and it's entertaining and cool and fun. So there was something about doing a surf movie that was appealing to me, but I also am invested in stories and character and structure and then you bring that to a genre that doesn't necessarily have a history of incorporating those elements, so what really appealed to me about Laird is that he was beyond a great surfer. He was a real character. He's one of the great individualists; that he does not adapt or conform. So I appreciate that about him and the choices that he's made throughout his life. I think there's something, looking at this story which appealed to me, and that isn't necessarily hard hitting in the film that's certainly in there that this is a kid that came from nothing. They were very poor, he had very little education, and he pursued his dreams and he's done great things as a result. I don't think that's the life for everybody but I think it's inspiring in it's own right.

Had you met him before deciding to make the film?

RK: I had met him a handful of times. We live in the same community in California. We have friends in common so I've met him a few times over the years but I did not have a relationship with him per se.

You used quite a bit of archival footage, even some of Laird's mom. How did you decide what to include?

RK: The archival was a big element of the film and in some ways that drove the film because there was so much incredible archival footage. They had a production company but he didn't own the rights to it and didn't have access to a lot of the footage they filmed, so that was its own complexity. Fairly late in the editing process, we got about 800 hours of footage, so we have to expand the edit to fit that in. The archival and what we used was really driven by how it fit into our overall story. I would say the archival was so amazing we wanted to fit it into our story.

You started the film in the same manner: a big storm was on the way and Laird was preparing to ride the biggest waves that area had seen. Is that symbolic of the way he lives his life?

RK: We used that element as sort of a bookmark in the film and we wanted the film to have a thrust forward and have something big at the end to keep the audience's attention, but I also think it's how he lives his life. Laird is interesting because he's a very spiritual person, very disciplined person, but at the end of the day nothing's going to get between him and a big wave. Even when we made the film, January is big wave season in Hawaii and that was when the film was premiering at Sundance. He was very clear that if there were waves during the Sundance premiere, he would be looking forward to hearing how the premiere went.

Throughout his career, Laird has been a controversial figure in the surfing world. Often when he'd do something groundbreaking, it was met with criticism. Was there anything he wanted to set straight with this film?

RK: I was making the film about Laird and Laird didn't have input in terms of what the film would be. There was no policing of what I could include and what I couldn't include. He opened up his address book to me, even putting me in touch with people who could have disparaging things to say about him and he was well aware that he had conflicts with in the past and present. He handed over his hard drive to me, so he was very transparent and I made it clear for me to make the best film possible, I needed full access. In terms of what Laird wanted out of it, he was very trusting of wanting me to look at his story and figure out what the film was and what the story was. The reality of a documentary like this is you're condensing a lifetime of a person's experiences into 90 minutes or 2 hours, so you're making a lot of choices about what's relevant and what's not. It's a hard question to answer because it's more about me than his intentions.

Was there anything you learned about Laird during filming that surprised you?

RK: I really didn't know much about him, except the significant contributions he's made, and I did research early on before I fully committed to the film, so that's part of the reason I was interested in making the film - understanding what an innovator he was. His personal story and his relationship with his father and how difficult his relationships were with his family was something I wasn't aware of, and I think a lot of people aren't aware of. I think there were some beautiful moments, understanding what was going on with him and Gabby and their relationship - the psychology of why he was pushing himself in that instant that made for compelling storytelling, and she is such a force. I appreciate her contributions to him over the years and their personal story. So there are a lot of elements in the film and a lot of moments, whether you're a surfer or pushing yourself to be the best that you can or you're a kid who's excited to pursue their dreams that this story would relate to. I wanted to make a film that would appeal to surfers, but ultimately make a film that would appeal to much wider than that. I'm not a surfer and I love the film.

What's next for you?

RK: I am doing a documentary right now about NASA. It is different, but there are some of the same themes funnily enough.

For tickets, or more information, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

Related Articles:

Be the first to comment on this article. (Just fill out the form below)

Submit Your Comment

Please note, you are not currently logged in. Your comment will be submitted as a guest.
To submit your comment as a member, please click here.
Your Name:
* Comments will be reviewed and posted in a timely fashion
* All fields are required
What color is the sky?
(For spam prevention, thanks)
East End Tick Control
The East End's only New York State licensed dedicated tick and mosquito control specialists!

Hamptons Carpet One Floor & Home
We pay less,and so do you.With over 1,000 stores in our buying group, we can get the lowest prices from the best flooring manufacturers — and pass the savings on to you.Visit our other locations: Hamptons Carpet One Floor & Home, 675 North Sea Road,Southampton, NY 11968

CP Complete- Landscape Design & Construction
Paul Guillo And Chris Hall Two Of The Most Respected Names In The Community Together, they are partners in CP Complete. They bring their years of experience and integrity to creating and renovating luxury backyards.

Hamptons luxury real estate specialist for 33 years, Andrea Ackerman offers outstanding expertise in the field.
Hamptons luxury real estate specialist for 34 years, Andrea Ackerman offers outstanding expertise in the field. Trusted, experienced and successful, Andrea has solidified herself as the go-to broker of the Hamptons and a wholehearted advocate for her clients. A pioneer in the real estate industry on the East End of Long Island, she is driven by her passion for the business. Andrea is based in the Bridgehampton office of Brown Harris Stevens as a licensed real estate associate broker and consultant. Formerly, a principal partner and Senior Director at Brown Harris Stevens, Andrea now assists in developing their corporate strategy for the Hamptons region, advising other brokers and sales associates, as well as being one of the top producers and listors.

Southrifty Drug 54 Jagger Lane, Southampton Village
Southrifty Drug is a small, neighborhood pharmacy with limited shelf space, and we have to be very selective about which over-the-counter items we carry. As a result you'll find a no nonsense concentration of very effective, high quality and useful products on our shelves. In this new section, we feature a number of these products that we feel are especially worthy of your consideration.

Burner Law Group, P.C.
Burner Law Group, P.C. are full service elder law attorneys concentrating in the areas of Estate Planning, Trust and Estate Administration and Litigation, Special Needs Planning, Guardianship and Elder Law. Offices in East Setauket‚ NY, Westhampton Beach, NY, and New York, NY.

Calissa is Mykonos in the Hamptons.
Our menu focuses on seafood and Greek dishes such as salt baked fish, seafood pasta and Mediterranean mezze. Our wine list has been awarded The Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator and boasts the largest selection of rosé in the Hamptons. The name Calissa is derived from the brightest constellation in the summer sky.Our sister restaurants in New York are Amali and Bar Marseille, opening 2020 in the Rockaways. Calissa offers private dining spaces for groups from 10 to 300 people. To plan your next wedding, corporate event or gathering, please email events@calissahamptons.com. 1020 MONTAUK HIGHWAY, WATER MILL

Suburban Propane in Bridgehampton, New York has been serving proudly supporting our community for 90 years.
Suburban Propane has been serving the energy needs for home owners and business in the Hampton’s for decades. We offer friendly service by local professionals you know and trust, plus the peace of mind that comes from knowing we are among the leaders in the industry for safety.

WordHampton Public Relations
We build client revenues and reputations. Our reputation is built on delivering a strong media presence and, as a result, demand for our clients' offerings, resulting in a positive impact on sales. Successful campaigns start with understanding the goals of our clients and developing a customized strategy that will achieve those objectives.

SGF Acupuncture, PLLC. Is owned and operated By Sandra Geehreng Foster.
SGF Acupuncture, PLLC. Is owned and operated By Sandra Geehreng Foster. Her treatments are based on five element acupuncture. She also offers Far Infrared Sauna treatments. PEMF cellular excerise.

Spanish Maven was founded by Marisa Ramirez.
Spanish Maven was founded by Marisa Ramirez after she experienced learning English as a second language upon relocating to New York.