Late last year, Laird Hamilton, big-wave surfer and longevity machine, told Men’s Health that “everything I do is about supporting the system.” The system is mental, emotional; it’s about buttressing relationships and fostering positivity. The system is internal, nutritional; it’s about complete diets, diverse foods, healthy fats, the occasional chocolate chip cookie—but the good shit, the ones with sea salt on top, you know? And physical. The system is about staying fit.
At 58, Hamilton has done just that, while also to resisting the riptide of cautiousness that’s led many his age to hang up their boards. (And for good reason: In surfing, you make a mistake and you die.) Part of Hamilton’s longevity has to do with surfing’s season. “My platform—my sport, my art—is not restricted by a structure that would make it more difficult to stay at the top,” Hamilton explained. “You see older guys in other sports, like Tom Brady or Roger Federer, and your ability to participate decreases as the younger guys come in. With surfing, you don’t have to be in a structure like that. You don’t have to tour around and be a part of a season and all that stuff.”
Still, one has to ride the waves, and while Hamilton may not be competing against others—he’s long eschewed traditional competitions—he’s always competing against the sea. Being able just to surf big waves is its own challenge. Mentally. Muscularly. Hamilton’s longevity is as much about the former as the latter. It’s about the system.
Men’s Health caught up with the surfing legend at his California home to see exactly how his system is built.
Spoiler—there is lots of swimming involved.
Joshua St Clair is an Assistant Editor at Men’s Health Magazine.