R.I.—Surfing guru Laird Hamilton has spent much of his life searching
for the biggest waves. Two-time America's Cup skipper Ken Read does his
best to avoid them.
But when Read sets sail from Spain in the
around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race in October, he'll be spotting for
Hamilton in his quest for towering waves and new ways to surf them.
going to be all over the place, all over the ocean. They're going to be
looking at stuff that I want to try to ride," Hamilton said this week
as he gathered in Newport to see Read and his crew off on a
trans-Atlantic training race. "Who knows? Maybe there's a new sport we
don't even know about. We don't know what the children from this
relationship are going to look like."
40,000-nautical mile trek through 10 ports on six continents, the Volvo
Ocean Race goes from Alicante, Spain, to Galway, Ireland, the long way.
Seven boats are expected to compete, including a new version of the Puma
team that Read skippered to a second-place finish in the last race two
Speaking to reporters in this former America's Cup
host city this week, Read said he had no intention of signing up for
another circumnavigation after spending most of a year on the water. But
even as the team was celebrating the first night back on land after the
2009 finish, his boss at Puma invited him to breakfast the next morning
and talked him into another go.
"The worst position ever to come in is
second, because you're so close
you can taste it," Read said. "I'd hate to wake up when I'm 90 years old
and say I had another shot at this and didn't take it.
"So, here we are."
2009 winning syndicate Ericsson sitting out this time, Puma hired away
Juan Kouyoumdjian, who designed the winning boats in the previous two
Volvo races. Everything they liked from the old boat was brought back,
and the things that could be improved were improved. (With no specifics
coming from the super-secretive sailors, naturally.)
result is a 70-foot, black blade called "mar mostro," or sea monster,
with octopus tentacles hand-painted on the hull and the Puma logo
stretching onto the main sail.
"We're not doing this to come in second again," Read said. "So, we're not messing around."
That's where Hamilton comes in.
the high-tech navigation equipment on the boat, the Puma crew will look
for the conditions that lead to the massive waves that Hamilton
wouldn't have a chance to see from the shore.
"We're going to
be sending him weather from the boat as to where to go," Read said.
"There's going to be times of the year when he's on call to jump on a
plane and an hour later, fly to the northeast coast of the Philippines
or wherever we are, and like, 'Yo, Dude. Surf's up.' He's looking
literally for the world's biggest waves to surf, even if it means
getting out 50 to 100 miles offshore to find these waves."
exchange, Hamilton has been providing the Puma crew with nutritional
tips—a crucial factor for a crew of a dozen that will spend weeks at a
time under strenuous conditions with limited ability to cook or store
"If I had my way, we'd be loading fresh vegetables on the boat," Hamilton said. "But they wouldn't win the race."
has also preached the value of staying in shape, and the effects are
already showing: Read said the entire crew was working out at 7 a.m.
"One of the things we took out of the last race was
fitness and nutrition," Read said. "I know that's where Laird is really
going to help us out."
Hamilton has even pitched in with
design ideas for the boat, including one that was apparently
revolutionary in sailing but commonplace in surfing (and so secret no
one would say what it was). "You never know when a little piece that you
take for granted can make a difference," Hamilton said.
47-year-old son of a surfing legend who was born in a bathysphere, the
blond and tanned Hamilton served as the surfing double for Pierce
Brosnan in the James Bond film "Die Another Day" and otherwise seems
straight out of sufer-dude central casting. His latest cause is Stand Up
Paddle Surfing, known as SUP, and he demonstrated the sport for
reporters at a Newport beach on a board designed to match the Puma boat.
When a reporter suggested that his relatively low-tech sport
had little in common with the logistical effort needed to win an
around-the-world sailing race, Hamilton pointed a thumb at "mar mostro"
floating behind him.
"They're all surfers," he said. "That's the biggest surfboard in the world. Didn't you see it?"
Hamilton, Read loves being on the water, and they share a concern for
keeping the oceans filled with marine life instead of man-made trash.
Still, though the sailors are no strangers to rough water, it's
another thing entirely to go so far out of your way to find it, like
"If I had a nickel for every time I was called
'crazy,' I'd be a wealthy man," Read said. "Having Laird around is
great, because he's way crazier than I am."
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson contributed to this story.