Laird Hamilton Banner

My guest today is waterman and big wave rider Laird Hamilton. Some of you may know that Laird is my husband and during a vulnerable time of recovering from a surgery I thought it was a good idea to connect with him around healing from injuries. I think the recovery was a little more challenging than Laird had anticipated and his ability to navigate through these waters can be a helpful guide to all of us. He’s done it quite a bit. Enjoy

Listen to the episode here:

[podcast_subscribe id=”5950″]

Key Topics:

Laird Hamilton: Dealing with Injury & Recovery, Mindsets on Pain & Progress

“The thing about pain is it brings you here. You are here. You’re not anywhere else. Nothing does it as pain does. There’s not a thing in the world that brings you into the present.”

“Whatever state you’re in that the pain is causing, it’s the state that you’re supposed to be in. That’s why the pain is causing it. There’s a relationship. I can’t see a world where the pain would make you be in a state that wouldn’t be the most productive for you to get better. Where does that exist in nature? That wouldn’t make sense to me.”

My guest is Laird Hamilton. Laird is known as a waterman or a big wave surfer. Some of you may know that Laird is also my husband. We’re going to do it a little differently. In the intro, I’ll answer some questions myself. What happened is I was sitting having coffee with Laird and he was recovering from surgery. Quite frankly, the recovery went harder than he thought. I thought it would be an important time to catch him.

We all have to navigate injuries and be like, “Will I be able to do this again or get back to normal or better than I was?” It’s scary. I thought Laird would be a great guide to talk about this because he does it well with his mental fortitude. He’s a compliant patient. He does his homework and all the little things. It’s his belief, “It’s a formula. It’s a process. I’m going to get there even on the days I’m down.” This is a person who uses their body to commune with nature.

For Laird, he has a different thing on the line. He almost needs the vessel to go out to the sea. For him, there’s so much teaching and passion and things make sense for him out there. He feels like he has a purpose. He has an additional layer and that’s why I felt like, “I’m going to grab him now while he’s in this state of mind because maybe it’s something that one of us could use. If we’re not going through it right at this moment, at least keep it in our pocket for another time.” I’ll share some of my thoughts on this. I was dealing with a torn labrum and then we’ll get into the conversation with Laird. I hope you enjoy.

Simultaneously to Laird navigating his knee, I’ve been dealing with something with my hip for probably about six months. I dragged my feet. I’ve talked about this before. In some ways, I’m not a great patient. I’m always early detection on everything, bloodwork, MRI, but I will drag my feet. Finally, Laird is like, “Can you go get an MRI and find out what’s going on in your hip?” Lo and behold, I have a tear in the hip and the labrum. Long story short, I went through all of this. I was in quite a lot of pain.

I went to my doctor, Dr. ElAttrache, who is the best of the best. He takes incredible care. There’s somebody who does this surgery even better. He says, “This is who I want you to meet.” They couldn’t have been nicer. There were a couple of things that happen. One is I have AFib. They go, “You’re going to have to go to the hospital and have this surgery,” which I wasn’t stoked about versus a surgery center. Exactly at this time, Laird had a gentleman, Dan, who came from Colorado and is a dry needler. Dan said to me, “It’s possible. You’ve had this tear for ten years. You have a lot of angry muscles.” That was one.

Two is I have a friend, a woman that I met through somebody, my friend Rory. She’s good. It’s more than a facial treatment. It’s a special type of massage. Her name’s Elle. He goes, “Try her out.” That’s another thing. I don’t do enough of that type of therapy. I’ll work out all day long until I run myself into the ground. Take an hour and get worked on, it’s like, “What’s the point?”

This is my lesson over and over and I probably don’t know why I haven’t learned it. The point is we do have to be nice to ourselves. It’s like, “I don’t deserve it. I have other things I could do that are more productive with that time. The cost.” Whatever the weird narrative that I run through my head as to why I don’t do it. Long story, Elle enters my life.

The other component that happened all within a 3 or 4-day period was I have some friends at ElliptiGO and they heard about this and said, “We help somebody heal a labrum. We have an electric slider.” It’s these ElliptiGOs but it’s e-assist and I can use it up my hill. I have a very steep hill. You can work the area but you don’t torque it. Long story short, I’m not joking, in the sixth month, I’m suffering. I decided to put the surgery on the side for a second, especially the AFib part. Ten days of doing the three things together in a triage approach, my hips started feeling better. Now, I feel like a new person.

Have you ever had an injury and you go to move through that place of pain and you wince because you’re waiting for it? I’ll bend down to pick something up and I still have this facial reaction. I’m ready for my hip to give me a zinger and it’s not. I’m only sharing this story because I do believe in always exploring things. It’s not that I don’t think we take our first diagnosis. It’s important. I also think it’s important to ask around, especially if you’re heading for surgery. What’s the harm in getting other opinions or trying a few things, a few modalities instead of like, “Let’s go straight into that.”

The difference between Laird and me there would be that he would have gotten the assessment a lot sooner than I would have. It took me a second. That’s ongoing. I’m a knucklehead in a lot of ways. I was asked how I deal with pain and what works for me. I’m pretty good at pain. What I noticed is that, for all of us, it takes a toll on you after a while. Your nervous system. I can manage a lot of pain. Usually, it’s a lack of function that gets me to move into getting help, which might be stupid. Pain is there to tell you, “Something’s going on. Take it easy.”

When I had a knee replacement, I did not take pain medication and part of that is I wanted to know how I was feeling so that I was doing the right thing for my body while I was recovering. If someone says, “I can’t deal with it. I can never get sleep.” There’s a time and a place for everything. For me, I was trying not to do that. In the question, what makes me human? Everything makes me human. I feel unsure about my body.

As a parent and a partner, I’m always checking myself. I can manage quite a lot. Also, I’m always going, “Is this the right move? Is this the right way to handle it?” Anyone who acts like they’ve got it all dialed in, they’re faking it. As far as what works for me, I like to make sure I get a lot of different input. Not crazy amounts but a lot of different input from people who do different modalities whether it’s medical, physical therapy, or what have you so I can get a picture of what is happening.

After surgeries, how do you balance that proactive effort of healing versus rest? What I want to say is, depending on what your doctors tell you, every situation is different. It’s important in the beginning to do the healing. Having said that, movement and getting blood flow lend themselves to accelerating the healing and keeping those ranges of motion. I would say that no one can tell you how to feel.

Sometimes there are parts where you do need to rest. There’s another part where part of the physical therapy is moving through some of this discomfort so that you get the best end results. You keep that range of motion. I will give you an example. When I had my knee replaced, I feel like I’m always a tighter person. I have an incredible PT guy, Alex. He was trying to bend my knee, leather straps, two manipulations, the whole line. Finally, after a while, he was like, “You need something else.” He sent me to another doctor who gave me calming IVs. That is how I got into a better range of motion.

Nobody can tell you but it’s always this combination of, “Don’t be an idiot and heal.” Part of getting better is uncomfortable and painful. I don’t know why we’re flipped out. If you go in and you’ve had an injury and you have surgery, chances are you’re going to have some pain when you come out. They made pain another symptom. We shouldn’t run away from the pain. We should listen to the pain and honor the pain.

The other thing is people always talk to me about doctors, what to ask, what not to ask, how you push your doctor, and all these things. It’s interesting. I always like to talk to people who had a doctor. You might have a doctor that’s very skilled and they have a terrible bedside manner but they’re badass. I would take that all day long. If you can find somebody who’s both, there’s nothing better. You’re going to be with them. You’re going to feel vulnerable. You’re going to want to have to ask those uncomfortable questions. You want to feel that comfort.

[bctt tweet=”There’s a certain level of fear that comes with intelligence.”]

For example, you get a talented doctor who’s busy. These people see a lot of patients every week. Bring somebody with you and plan ahead. What are the small questions you have either going into surgery, physical therapy, rehabilitation, or coming out of surgery? Don’t be shy to ask those questions. They’ve heard it all. It doesn’t matter if it feels like it’s a dumb question to you. You’ve got to do it.

When this doctor says to you, “Don’t use it for this period of time,” usually, they’re going to err on the conservative side because they have to. I would also use my physical therapist as a reference for how you’re doing. It’s different for everybody. It’s like a blend. Don’t be an idiot and go too early. It’s interesting to use the physical therapist to be like, “Where am I at right now? Could I go another day? Could I go a little further?” You have to be proactive as well.

The other conversation is always about inflammation, how we use our diet, and all these things. For me, going into surgery, if you have opportunities, I try to strengthen certain areas. If the doctor says, “Let’s get these other areas strong.” Do that. If you’re not in too much discomfort and you can do it, eat a non-inflaming diet. Tons of animal protein and sugar are probably not your friend, alcohol, the obvious thing. Minimalize that going in so that you almost are jumping on the recovery. Keep that inflammation down because that helps everything.

While you’re there, after surgery, try to stay hydrated. Even though we want to eat maybe fun things because it’s easy and you don’t feel great, try to stick to things that will support this recovery. If you have a wound or an incision, you have to wash it with a sauna and ice. Once that’s healed up, I love to use pools for that antigravity location. We can work on other parts of your body. I love the sauna for that circulation and healing.

Ice has its place but not always. It depends on the injury. A lot of times, you find that heat is more of the king when it comes to healing than ice. I will say this. If you are in excruciating pain and you can put ice on it and numb the pain versus taking a painkiller, pretty badass. My friend, Kelly Starrett, told me something great that I love. You can make an X pattern over the incision and it can dull the pain receptors. Kelly would give us units. Laird would put it over his incision and dull the pain that way.

In that way, ice is awesome but there is a lot of data showing that ice can slow down healing. I would stick to proctored movements, ranges of motion, and sauna. If they tell you to do it two times and it doesn’t hurt, maybe do it three times. We can do more. It’s this weird balance of you’ve got to be patient and it can only heal how quickly it can heal and, “What can I do?” It’s being in touch with that and being reasonable.

As far as reintroducing exercise, this is interesting because your body may be ready for certain things and your mind and emotions are scared. It’s normal. I’ve been through that a million times. I would build a real relationship with my physical therapist and talk about these things, “What is safe?” Also, create environments. For example, we get a lot of athletes here that will train in the pool if they’re ballistic athletes or if they have to be explosive. Imagine they’ve got a big ankle injury and they’re an NFL player. It’s scary.

Where can you find other environments where you can move safely? A squat, for example, in water. Maybe that’s safer than doing it in the gym. Emotionally, you start to accept, like, “I am getting better. I can do these movements.” It’s honoring that. Once you’ve been injured, especially if you’ve had surgery or you’ve come back from something, it takes it your mind and psyche almost as long to recover to be like, “Yes, I can go and go without thinking.”

Be a fluid and spontaneous person. Give yourself a break during that time because it’s hard. For me, that was always one of the hardest parts. You’re like, “I don’t know.” You don’t want to set yourself back. The last thing I was asked is that if the pain is this war with yourself, that brings you into the moment. Sitting on the topic of pain, pain is a great teacher. Pain will make us get better. This is a much smaller type of injury, this labrum. The only reason I’m exploring all these other things and got pushed into something new and I even got a Lagree Pilates table is because I was in pain. I was in discomfort.

What I want to remind you is when pain shows up, it’s like frustration when you’re on a business adventure. You have a new endeavor. It’s there to propel us into something new to continue to be students. If we’re not in any pain, why would we change anything? It’s unfortunate, especially if we’re talking about physical pain.

I’m always looking for ways to try to learn lessons in my personal life before it all comes crashing down on me. I’ve done that enough in my life where I’m trying to look ahead and tend to the gardens of my relationships and take ownership of my weird behavior or apologize when I need to or whatever it is. With physical pain, sometimes it’s out of our control. Stuff happens. We get hurt. We’re busy. We don’t pay attention. We pick something up and our back hurts.

This is our teacher saying, “What you’re doing is not working. You’ve had this event and now you’re going to change it up.” If you’re managing something like this, I’m sorry. Also, get the new practices. Get the new information. It’s this opportunity, like, “I implemented this in this time of my life. Maybe, in the long run, it saved me a big headache that I wouldn’t be able to recover from.” You’d be maybe too old or too set in your ways or whatever it is. As hard as it is, it’s almost like embracing it and observing it.

Sometimes, we get wound up by our pain instead of creating distance from it. Instead, it’s like, “It hurts.” It’s like, “Got it. It hurts.” What about getting some distance and being like, “I have this going on. What do I think I want to do about it?” It seems to be better and helps you get to where you want to get quicker anyway and whining about it after a while. I’m not saying not to have compassion for somebody. After a while, it’s like, “Now what? What’s the plan?”

Now you know what I think and now you’ll know what Laird thinks. I want to preface by saying Laird has been injured way more than me and his attitude is way better. He’s a much more compliant and diligent student than I am. I always seem in this area to learn the hard way. That’s why I can speak to it so easily. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this but sometimes I look at myself and I’m like, “Still doing that.” I hope you enjoy this time. I hope you’re healthy and you don’t need it. If you do, I hope it supports you in some way.

Laird, thank you for sitting down with me.

My pleasure.

We’re at our house. Laird, I wanted to sit with you. I thought it would be good timing on this. First of all, you’ve been complaining or communicating that you have had some impingement feeling. You’re very sensitive to your body because you ask your body to do a lot of things in high demand. I joke, I can barely kneel down. You shut your leg all the way but you’re like, “You see that last little bit, I can’t get my knee to close as much or straighten.”

You went to the doctor and you found out through your MRI that there were bones floating around or attached to tissue, three of them. You got surgery and they said, “No big deal. You’ll be weight-bearing when you get out.” In our minds, I put your injury in my mind too, it was going to be like, “No big deal for 3 or 4 days.” It’s been a couple of weeks of the process. They took out three gravel-sized pieces of bone that you brought home. Because you didn’t want it to smell, you’d either bleach it or dry it out in the sun. You chose to dry it out in the sun and our dog ate the bones.

Now, I and Kawa are as one. We’re connected.

As Elijah said, it’s Greek weird mythology. I was out of town when this happened.

You take the bones of the knee and feed him to the wolf of the soul and 2 become 1.

It’s been a little hard.

It’s ongoing.

Laird Hamilton Caption 1

Laird Hamilton – We need questions to lead to answers. We’re looking for answers. That’s where we have to question.

I thought this would be a good idea to talk about. Plenty of people, at this moment, are anticipating or getting surgery. Maybe it’s an elective sports surgery. Maybe they are dealing with an illness and/or maybe they’ve been hurt. Let’s talk about the frame of mind going into something. Let’s say it’s elective surgery. By the way, any accidents or athletic surgeries, they sometimes put that under there. There could be a preparation. There’s an emotional preparation. You’ll take certain supplements. You got worked on by Barrett’s the night before to try to get the tissue open to relax. There’ll be maybe less inflammation and things like that.

There’s always preparation whether it’s elective or injury. If it’s an injury, you usually don’t have the time to prepare. If it’s elective, you know it’s coming, “I’m going to get this replaced,” or, “I’m going to get this procedure done because I have something going on.” If you have time, you can become more prepared.

It helps your psychology. Being able to prepare for surgery is going to help you psychologically because you’re going to be able to do things that you believe are going to make it easier to recover whether it does or not. It’s not whether it does or not, it’s whether you believe it does or not. If you believe it’s going to be beneficial, it’s already beneficial at that point. It could be beneficial too, then you could do some things that would make it less impactful on you.

Did you have a frame of mind getting ready for this? You thought it was no big deal. Ultimately, it was an exciting opportunity. You have a chance to be even better, answer those questions, what that glitch was, or whatever. Are you weary going in?

I’d rather not give it too much energy. I’d rather make the decision, “I have a problem. This is what’s going on. I can do this. I’m going to do that. Let’s leave it there.” Your brain is naturally going to run these scenarios. You’re going to have that part of your brain that’s going to give you all of the narratives that you’re going to beat yourself up to try to convince yourself to probably not do it, especially if you’re doing elective. If you’re not doing an elective and you’ve got hurt, you don’t have a choice. You’re doing it. That’s what’s happening.

There is a level of choice. Even when you’re hurt, you can do this. Unless it’s an emergency car wreck, compound through the leg, you’re having to do it. Most of these things are elective. Even when they’re an injury, you can decide, “Do I want an ACL or not? Do I want to get that meniscus out that’s impeding my range of motion? Do I want to go on my shoulder and get all those spurs out?” These are elective things.

It’s always strange to make a decision that ends up putting you behind where you are for a while. You then go behind because you’re like, “I got that thing but I can still do everything.” You go and get the surgery and you’re incapacitated. You’re like, “Was that a great idea? The day before, I could still do what I can do.” There’s psychology on that.

That’s what happened to you. Let’s talk about that for a second. There’s a little glitch in your squat.

It’s starting to atrophy.

For you, every inch of performance, where can you get more inches? Going into surgery, if someone’s reading this, can you get the inflammation out as low as you can? Can you get a sauna? Can you do certain proactive things to help your body be in the best position possible? For me, when I had to get one of my knee surgeries, it was like, “Get certain muscles as strong as you can before you head in.” That’s great. That’s one thing. You get the surgery and you’re a little bit out for at least ten days, crutches, and things like that. What tools do you use? I watch you and I see you. In certain moments, it’s not easy.

You go through a roller coaster of emotions. You go through the highs and the lows. Whenever you get a little hope, you put some weight on it, “I can move it a little more.” Maybe I can roll over and not have it be painful. Maybe I can do something where it’s not an excruciating pain to roll over, it’s a little less. You’re like, “Hope.” You go back into the doldrums of, “I can’t do that.” Pain, in general, is a mind battle. Pain is a war with yourself.

You didn’t take any pain medication.

I don’t know how smart that is. The thing about pain is it brings you here. You are here. You’re not anywhere else. Nothing does it as pain does. There’s not a thing in the world that brings you into the present. Pain brings you right here. You’re here and you’re aware. There’s nothing fun about it. It goes into appreciating not having pain. You don’t know what not having pain is until you have pain and then you’re like, “I don’t have pain.” The only reason why you know what not having pain is like is that you know what pain is. There wouldn’t be any, “I feel so great,” if there wasn’t, “I don’t feel great. This is painful.”

There are several nights that you didn’t sleep well.

A week. I’m still flipping and flopping. I’m going unconscious for moments in time. For a while, I was conscious the whole entire time that day and night. They always talk about needing sleep.

That’s what I was going to ask you. Maybe it was the fourth night and you’re thinking, “Maybe I should have taken the pain meds to get rest.” There is also an interesting fine line between how important is sleep to recover and not wanting to take any pain medication.

I don’t think the system is designed to have to take pain meds to make you sleep to recover. I don’t think it works that way. We’ve Westernized it that way. You’re awake for a reason. Whatever is going on and whatever state you’re in that the pain is causing is the state that you’re supposed to be in. That’s why the pain is causing it. There’s a relationship. I  can’t see a world where the pain would make you be in a state that wouldn’t be the most productive for you to get better. Where does that exist in nature? That wouldn’t make sense to me.

Did ElAttrache pull out the chart with a smiley face and ask you, “On the pain scale…” That was created by the Sackler family, “Don’t be in any pain.”

“Where, on this scale, do you want to be? Are you smiley face guy down here?” All I can say is that smiley face guy is not healing. He might be smiling but he’s not healing. Sour face guy over here that’s hurting and wounded, he’s in full heal. There’s something to be connected to that. Maybe that’s my sadistic thinking. The more you can endure, the faster and better you’re going to heal. You’re going to heal better if you can endure it. It doesn’t mean wounding yourself more. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about dealing with the discomfort that you’re in.

[bctt tweet=”Pain is a mind battle.”]

The movement that you have and not being able to be comfortable, that’s for a reason. During that, there’s something going on that makes sense. I don’t necessarily want to find out completely why that is but I know that there’s a connection between the state that you’re put in from being in pain and the benefits of being in that state. If you have to get a little ice, get a little stem, or do something to give yourself a little relief. Part of the reason why you’re inflamed is to reduce mobility and almost like casting it to protect you from moving it more and injuring it more.

You did elevate and things like. In this scenario, did you have any mental mantras? I didn’t see it too much. I saw a little bit of temporarily defeated. With you, there’s no defeat.

You have to have a certain level of submission. You got to submit. That’s part of the process or that’s part of what it forces you to do. Part of what happens is there is a certain level of submission that you have to have to get through it because nothing else is going to work. If you don’t submit to it at a certain point, you’re not going to get through it. It’s going to be more difficult. Why make it harder? It’s not going to make the week any shorter or longer. It’s going to make you get through it easier. Don’t submit, long week. Submit, maybe a little less long week.

Do you think you submit gracefully?

Unfortunately, I have a lot of practice at it. I don’t think there’s anything graceful about it. I have a relationship with being hurt, having been hurt many times in all different ways. I have a pretty good relationship with the process that I know, “This is where we’re at in this curve.” All of a sudden, you get a little glimpse of hope.

We’re getting a little better. We can put our foot down. We can be in a position and lay there for half an hour and not have it throb. Those are moments of hope. On a mountain, you grab the littlest thing to hold on to and you hold on to that thing. You get a little bigger one and there’ll be another one and then you can go from there. Up until you have something to hold on to, it’s not great. You’re slipping.

If someone has an illness and they’re trying to navigate and there’s an unknown element.

The unknown is never good. With my leg, my knee, and what was going on, “What’s this? Could it be that?” I wonder what that’s going to be.” I could grow it up and make it to something. Once I got the MRI and I saw that there was a piece of bone attached to the quad ligament that was rubbing into the femur when I was squatting, I’m like, “That’s why it feels like that.”

It’s important to be proactive about figuring out what’s going on. First of all, don’t be in denial of it. Listen to your body, “Something’s not right.” You know when something’s not right. In this case, it wasn’t going to be so traumatic that I needed to know so soon. I gave it more time probably than I could have.

You did it more my style.

I was getting away with it. It wasn’t every move all the time. It was something that was a little elusive and I could maybe hope that it was going to go away or I could do something. I accepted the fact that I needed to know what was happening. Knowing the problem is probably half the solution. If you know the problem, then you can figure out what the things are to do. Whatever it is, at least you can have some sort of roadmap, you have some sort of idea. It’s not your reptilian brain running all those narratives that lead you into who knows what. That’s anxiety and stress. That’s what’s hard on you.

I do appreciate that you’re not only very proactive but you are the best patient I’ve ever seen. You’re the most compliant. If they tell you to do this for 15 minutes, you do it for 25. If they say you do it every day, you do it twice a day. That attributes to your longevity and performance because you will do all the little things that none of us want to be bothered with and all the homework. It’s like rotator cuff exercises. Nobody wants to do those. Nobody wants to sit there and do spine stabilizing anything. It’s fundamental. It’s small. It’s not sexy. It takes time. It’s valuable. You’re a good example.

I appreciate that. The irony is when you’re hurting, those are the only things you can do. In the end, you’re like, “I’m glad I can do this little two-pound weight and move with the thing.” You have to have something to grab onto. When you can’t do the other stuff, that’s when those become valuable. At that point, you give those unsexy things, all those foundation stuff, you give that credibility because you’re like, “These are the things that got me out of this thing where I couldn’t do anything.” Let’s remember that before instead of after. After, we’re like, “I’ll do all that preventative stuff.” If you did it before, you wouldn’t have to.

That’s true a lot of the time and that’s why I want to talk about that. You got to pull the weeds a little bit. It does make it a lot easier. This is a different scenario when you have had injuries because of an incident. Are you feeling emotionally different than what you went through?

It’s a similar version. It’s the same thing. When you have an injury, you have a reason. You’re like, “That happened. The thing came and cut my leg,” or, “I got hit by this thing and it broke the thing.” That’s less confusing. When I have this thing and it doesn’t feel great, I’m going to go get this surgery and now I can’t walk. You’re like, “I did that to myself. I was okay before.” It’s almost like I’m going to choose to hurt myself right now. That’s the only difference. Either way, it’s the same result after you’re wounded.

You consciously chose to wound yourself in the interest of the long run that it’s going to be beneficial but you’re still like, “Look at my leg. How am I going to come back from the atrophy that I self-induced on myself?” That’s the only part that makes it different than when you’ve been hurt. When you’ve been hurt, it’s like, “I got hit by the thing,” or, “I fell,” or, “That broke,” or, “This happened.” It chose itself. As soon as you’re done with it, it’s still the same thing.

Let’s talk about that vulnerability. We have that vulnerability, even an injury.

You don’t like to see anybody when you’re hurt.

It feels like you want to be a little more retreated.

It’s like an animal that runs away and hides in the bushes.

I’m not going to generalize. Also, you’ve had a lot more experience with it than myself. You are more uncomfortable being physically vulnerable than me. What do you do?

You know it’s temporary. You’ve done it enough times that you know you’ll be back. Before you know it, you won’t even remember when it was like that. If you didn’t take care of it, you’d still be with it. There’s some of that experience that helps. You hear about athletes that have never been hurt and then they get hurt, it’s almost career-ending because they’ve never been vulnerable like that and hurt and then they lose their psyche. They think, “I don’t know if I can do it. Can I do it?” When you’ve had that happen over and over, pretty soon, you’re like, “Here we are again.”

Laird Hamilton Caption 2

Laird Hamilton – The thing about pain is it brings you here. You’re not anywhere else. There’s not a thing in the world that brings you into the present.

You also have the confidence to know that you can operate for three quarters. I can operate with the thing. I’m working fine. I was, I can, and I will be able to operate even when it’s not working. If there’s any chance it’ll work better than I was already doing with it not working, bring it on. There’s the advantage that you have when you’ve been through it so many times.

Like anything, when you have experience, you have an advantage because you’ve been through the process and you’re like, “We’re at step three of it. Be proactive with your thing. Make sure you eat well.” When Baron came over to work on my leg, I wasn’t in the mood for pain. I’ve been hurting for a week, day and night. All of a sudden, it’s like, “You’re going to work on my leg, dig in my leg, bend it, straighten it, and do all this stuff.”

When they start talking about the joint capsule when they’re massaging you.

After, you benefit. That night I slept good.

You felt sick to your stomach. It’s important. First of all, let’s say that Baron knows what he’s doing. Let’s start there. Whoever came to touch you after you had surgery knew what they were doing. The minute you were done, you lay down, elevated your legs, and you were nauseous.

You’re moving better than you’ve moved. You’re feeling better than you feel. When you’ve been through that process enough times, you’re willing to suck it up when you’re not in the mood to take the pain because you’re like, “I have to do this.” I’d rather be like, “I feel good. It’s not hurting right now. If I don’t move, it won’t hurt.” You got to move the thing. You got to get it moving again because otherwise, it might take a lot longer to get it back to where it needs to be functional.

If anyone is recovering, you have to not only be proactive in finding out what’s going on with your body but you have to be proactive in the healing and recovery. If you have rehab and all these things, all of this will make the difference later. Does it ever annoy you? I put it off. I have some with my hip.

Does that annoy me that you put your stuff off?

Sometimes, because I don’t want to know. I know I’ll get to it. Maybe I think it’s the worst. Maybe I’m like, “Now I have to get a hip replacement.”

You’re back in that narrative and you’re not answering the question to know exactly what it is. Even if it was worse than you thought it was, it would still be better than not knowing what you think it is. That’s the problem. Not knowing what you think it is, that’s going to always be the worst. That unknown miss is the uncertainty of it. Even if it’s worse than what you imagined, it’s still going to be better because you’re going to have an idea, specifically what it is. What do you do for that? This. Those are the answers. Those are the questions. The big difference is that you have questions or you have answers. Answers are always better than questions.

Questions are great.

We need questions to lead to answers but we’re looking for the answer. That’s why we have the questions.

You are tough on your body.

Life is tough on us.

You ask your body to do a lot.

Can we go back to you not talking about finding it out?

This is my show.

There is a male-female aspect to it.

You’re getting in trouble now.

I’m already in trouble. I got a house full of trouble.

We like to talk about our feelings.

You’ll make appointments for my doctor all day long in two seconds, three of them. If I mentioned to you, “What about the doctor?” I like, “When?”

It’s true. I’m on it though. You inspired me.

It has a lot to do with you taking care.

It’s dumb, though.

It’s not. That’s where you’re coming from, “I’m going to take care of you. I’m taking care of the house. I’m taking care of the kids. I’m taking care of everybody.” That’s a feminine trait to take care of people. The male trait is like, “I’ll take care of myself.” You’re like, “You can’t take care of everybody else if you don’t take care of yourself.”

I do appreciate that you give me friendly nudges.

I try to lead by example.

I know you’re more annoyed than you let on. It’s like, “Deal with it already.” In a great way, you’re hard on your body. You have a lot of years. One of my favorite lines is there are a lot of ways I still have to ride that I want to ride.

We’ve been making them a long time out there. It doesn’t seem like you’re stopping. Ride what you can.

Get it when you can. Maybe ask that selfishly and this seems like a perfectly public easy way to talk about it. Why talk about it at dinner? I should talk about it here. Age and time, “This changes a little. That muscle changes a little in the recovery.” For me, I get a sense that you’re aware. I wonder what you do when that chirping starts in your brain with, “I’m this age now.” How do you build a relationship with that?

[bctt tweet=”My spirit is the same spirit. I don’t see any wrinkles on that.”]

Part of it is denial. Ignore it. It only has the power you give it. If you feed it, it’s going to grow into this big thing. Some of it is that. When I was younger, I wasn’t paying attention. Now, I’m paying more attention. Is it that different? how much different is it? Maybe the recovery. Maybe you don’t get a sore. Maybe you weren’t as banged up when you were younger. Everybody goes, “You’re recovering.” You haven’t had to recover for so much. When you had to recover and you’re always in recovery, it’s harder to recover because you’re more used, more miles.

Your hormones are different. That is a part, a little. I don’t think you suffer that than the civilian, let’s say. There’s science on it. I appreciate it because it’s a good example for me. Women have a harder road in this way, a narrative about aging. We’re harder on ourselves about it. You seem to have harmony with where you’re at.

This came into my mind and I thought, my spirit is the same spirit. I don’t see any wrinkles on that. Maybe the body that my spirit is riding in is a little banged up and a little older. What’s inside, what the energy, who I am, that isn’t any different. That’s not old at all. This thing is maybe getting older because it’s been exposed to the sun for 30 more years and it’s had a bunch of banged-up things and been in environmental toxins and all that stuff. This is what’s being exposed to the environment and the conditions. My psyche, that part of me, that part didn’t change that.

You’re not this. If we’re this, I got all kinds of stuff going on. I want to be separate. I’m riding this. If I could have a say in it. Who knows what they got going out there in the world? They might want to take this out and put in something else. Right now, this is what I’m riding in. This thing might be deteriorating at a certain pace given what it does and the environment we’re in. My desires, all those other things, I don’t see much difference in them other than maybe choices that you’re making coming naturally because of where you’re at with what you’ve done and your interests. It has something to do with that.

I’m not like, “We’re not the same when we’re kids.” Because we did a bunch of stuff from when we were kids to now that probably affected the way we feel about the things that we thought were so important. We go, “We’re young. We got to do all this stuff.” We do it and then we’re like, “We did all that. Great. Now what?” You can continue to live in that or you can look to the future and be excited, interested, and enthusiastic.

We have examples that help us. How many people do we know? We have these older friends of ours that are curious and young. They’re interesting and their bodies are older but their spirits are young. You’re like, “Let me see. That’s it. It’s the young spirit.” The body is coming and it’s going. You could be young and have an old spirit. You can be old and have a young spirit. That’s probably a bigger topic.

Byron Katie comes to mind. When I look at her eyeballs, it’s wonder and curiosity.

I have guys like Terry Chun and guys that I surf with that are 77-year-old guys. You see them and they’re in their mid-70s but they’re going. The body’s not moving at the speed it did and all those things but they’re still interested and excited. You wonder if the deterioration of the body doesn’t deteriorate the spirit. Because the body doesn’t quite move the same, then the spirit starts to get discouraged, like, “This thing is not moving as quickly as I need it to.” Of course, there’s a relationship between those two.

How do we keep ourselves as much out of pain as possible? Pain will hammer your spirit through time.

The thing exhausts you. It does bring you to the present. It brings you here. If you think about yoga and some very uncomfortable position, it’s meant to be uncomfortable. It’s meant to be painful to bring you into the present. It’s to make you present. That pain will make you present in a way that nothing else will. There’s nothing else that brings you right here and right now with the attention that you have. This isn’t the worst I’ve ever had but there were some moments where it was real. It’s completely exhausting. You’re alive. You’re wide awake.

As people maybe who are living with someone who’s recovering from an injury, a caregiver at this time, besides ignoring them, what would be a beneficial way to approach it? Sometimes it feels like a lose-lose and you’re like, “All I’m trying to do is help you out.” Do you ignore that?

The byproduct of being uncomfortable and not sleeping is that you’re going to be grouchy. It’s a temporary thing. The condition you’re in is temporary.

The thing is to be grateful that it’s that.

In my particular case, I had comfort. This allows me to talk like this and go with what I went through because I knew that it was temporary. It was self-induced and it was temporary. Hope came quickly. For some people, after years and years of discomfort, the hope is in death. The hope is to end the discomfort and the pain like our friend’s mom. She had to go.

Some relief.

They got to be unchained from the pain. I can speak only of it because I know it’s temporary. There’s nothing that brings you right here right now and makes things clearer than pain does. As Byron Katie would say, at times, I was trying to be able to experience the sensation of it. Try to experience the sensations and not just have it be something that you’re trying to avoid. The avoidance of it is where the real impact is. There’s less impact if you’re trying to embrace it a little bit no matter what you’re doing.

You’re experiencing it versus complaining about it, reacting to it, or trying to avoid it.

Mine was a temporary thing. It’s easy for me to sit here.

In the grand scheme, it’s child’s play. I did want to talk about it because there are a lot of people going through something whether they’ve got a nagging injury or something has happened. Bring this to the top of mine and talk about it. Before I slide over to one other quick thing, Justin, do you want to ask Laird about anything with injuries?

Are you afraid of anything?

I’m afraid of Gabby.

That’s not true. Fear of a flat planet, I’ve heard that.

I wouldn’t swim naked two miles offshore in an area where there were adolescent Great Whites. There’s a certain level of fear that comes with intelligence. If you have a somewhat intelligent brain, in certain situations, you’re like, “That’s dangerous. That’s scary.” A lot of it has to do with your response to it. More than anything, it has to do with how you respond to the situation because that dictates the level of what fear impacts you.

Laird Hamilton Caption 3

Laird Hamilton – The more you can endure, the faster and better you’re going to heal. You’re going to heal better if you can endure it.

If fear impacts you in a way that you can still make decisions and you can work within it, then that’s a lot different than you freezing up or freaking out. Somewhere in those two things, there’s nothing good coming out of that. The thing you’re scared of becomes a true danger. If you can be in a situation where things are dangerous and somewhat have a sound mind and be able to make decisions, some of that comes naturally from people. Certain people have that ability.

Some of that comes from experience. Some of it comes from ignorance. Some people don’t know it’s dangerous. The guy that knows it’s dangerous is like, “That’s dangerous.” The other person is like, “What’s dangerous?” Once they know, they freak out. Ignorance is bliss. There are a few ways. You pretend it’s not dangerous. There are three ways you go about it. There’s ignorance, denial, operating within your experience, and then a combination of those three.

When we talk about fear, that’s the way you go about it. Some of it is denial. You can be in denial, like, “That leopard over there, that’s not a leopard. That’s a piece of wood.” One of them is like, “What is that?” You don’t even know what it is. Another one is like, “That’s a leopard.” As long as I’m here and he’s there and I go that way and he goes that way, it’s all good.

What was that one book?

The Lion Tracker’s Guide To Life.

That’s an incredible story. Was it a panther that had the guy pinned?


A local tracker had gotten pinned into a cave and then the other tracker waited until he heard the breathing of the animal slow down enough. He then said to the guy, “Now is the time to move.” She was ramped up and her babies were there.

They came into her den. They stepped into the den and then that thing was there. I could tell by the nuance of the breath when the time to make the move was.

When she was calm. In the beginning, it was not the time to move and not to also look at her. It’s a great and sweet little story. Also, you’ve practiced being in stressful situations enough that you keep your wits about you.

There is a skill to being in situations that are dangerous. You can cultivate the skill. You can go into dangerous situations with fire, flood, bomb, or whatever. You have the ability to be okay in these things, make good decisions, be aware, and be conscious about what’s going on. There’s also the thing where you also know what your capacity is.

My ability to be risk-taking and courageous in giant surf is much greater than it would be in an ice-climbing situation on a mountain. I know where my limitations were. It doesn’t mean that if I was in this spot, I would freak out. I have some experiences of being okay being in these situations after having been exposed throughout the years and other ones that were similar.

At the end of the day, when the body is under threat, the body doesn’t go, “I’m under threat from this animal eating me,” or, “I’m under the threat from this fire,” or, “I’m under the threat from this falling.” In the end, the body is threatened. How does the body respond to being threatened? Differently, if you’ve had a lot of experience with it. The more you’ve had experience with it, the less freaked out you’ll get.

It’s also knowing your capacity. You can push it in areas that you have skills in and you will be a little more conservative with it. That speaks to the same characteristics that make you good in that situation, to begin with. You can assess. It’s about assessment. You go, “With my skill and what I know in that situation, don’t move or go that way.” In another situation, you make a different decision. It’s about assessment.

You being able to assess the situation is what gives you comfort or gives you at least stability in that environment instead of freaking out. It’s back to questions and answers. If I have a question, “What happens if that goes down there?” I have an answer, “That means that this will happen so I go there.” It’s questions and answers. That’s a big piece of it.

When I do this podcast, I talk to people and a lot of them are subject matter experts in some areas and it’s all about them. I try my best to reveal certain things if it adds to the conversation. I want to slide over to marriage and parenting and then I will graciously liberate you from the hot seat. We were waiting for Brody to pick her up. I am fascinated. We don’t come from homes where people made it in long marriages.

We’ve seen what it looks like.

We didn’t grow up with it. Some people came into it more equipped than we came into it in certain ways.

That could also be the downfall, being more equipped.

It gets better.

I don’t know. Ignorance is bliss.

It wouldn’t have surprised me if I was married and divorced. I know you’re different.

Am I?

Yeah. In a beautiful way, you have something old-fashioned and romantic. You’re much more romantic than I am. It’s great. I also know that there are many things that are probably challenging about being with me. I said something about Brody. Brody and I, there have been some parallel lines drawn. We have certain personality traits that seem to be similar. We’re a few days apart. We’re both Capricorns. I said something about Brody. She’s going to be okay. Your kid gets to a certain age. Every month or so, you’re like, “Do you think they’re going to be okay?” Sometimes you say it out loud and sometimes you say it to yourself. You wonder, “Are they going to be okay?”

Questions and answers.

That answer takes years. I’ll know in twenty-some years.

That’s the looming question. It continues to loom. For twenty years, “Are they going to be okay?”

You happened to be in the car when I said it out loud. I was like, “Do you think she’s going to be okay?” I don’t even know what you said. You were like, “Yeah.” She will be the last man standing. I said, “We are similar.” You said yes. What did you say? What was the word that you said? Do you remember?

I do but I’ll let you remember.

I want you to say it. I’m revealing it.

You say it. I forgot.

It wasn’t specific.

I can’t remember the exact word.

Was it like I had prerequisites? What was it? What was it? This is why we’re still married because we can’t remember. It’s like, “You said that?” “What did I say?” “I don’t know.” What was it?

There are particular ways that you like to configure.

[bctt tweet=”Pain is a war within yourself.”]

You had a specific word and it landed on me like a bull’s eye. I was like, “He’s right.” You got to remember.

I can’t remember right now. I blocked it out. It landed so well, I was like, “I need to make this.”

The implication was that there are certain things about me that are true to Brody that are almost non-flexing and pretty. In certain ways, I seem to be more easy-going and try to bend and go with the flow.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Maybe you know this the best because you’re my partner where you’re like, “Yeah, right.” There’s a part of me that when it comes to the things I’m not going to flex on, I’m not going to flex. I flex on everything. On the things I’m not going to flex on.

Not even remotely and no potential to flex in the future. There’s no chance that there’s going to be any flex, which is great.

I’m working on it.

It works really well.

How is that to live with?

Predictable. You could rely on that. That stuff is like the sun rising and the sun setting, which is good. In a world flying through outer space, it’s pretty amazing to have something to hold onto, some stability.

Do you know the areas that I’m going to be pretty fixed on?

I have a pretty good idea. It works. There are certain things. Probably why it does work is that I benefit from that structure. If I didn’t, we would know by now.

When I look at it, a lot of it has to do with organization and cleanliness. Some of it bleeds over into wanting control and fear. I am working on some of that stuff because I know it, I recognize it. I like things to be organized and clean but not in a weird way. It’s how I get everything done.

I benefit from that. Also, to the point where it bleeds over where I have that covered, the fear part. I’m good with it. I’m like, “You want to have some fear and get a workout? Cool. No problem.” That’s part of your thing that you have. All of a sudden, it doesn’t provoke that in me. If I was temperamental in that area, that might have a negative effect on me. You’d trigger me and then I’d be like, “What?” Maybe in the past, you had that in relationships. Maybe with the guys, it did trickle over and it set them off. I’m good with that. For me, I’m like, “No problem.”

If you want to work that out yourself, I’ll be supportive. I’m here to support you. You’re here to support me too. Within those other things that you like the way they are, you have a certain configuration. There’s no deviation. That’s how it is. I benefit from that. Maybe I like it that way but I don’t have to have it that way. For you, you’re going to have it that way. I’m like, “Cool. She’s going to have it that way. I’m going to benefit. I’m not going to get worked up about it.”

Your relationship with nature, being out in the ocean, has given you a great amount of faith and flexibility that I see and witness. Also, I lean on from time to time with faith. You look at stuff that’s going on. We’ve had some challenging moments at work. You might be like, “This is inconvenient.” You’re like, “Everything’s okay.” I appreciate that.

I want to encourage people that if they are dealing with an injury, they keep that faith but they also participate in making themselves feel better. If they have chosen or are in a relationship at this moment in their life, how do you support the person but their stuff isn’t your stuff? How do you love them throughout boundaries?

It’s all these dances that are worth trying to figure out. You also learn at the end that so few of the things that we end up having conflicts about or have nothing to do with that usually have to do with our own personal frustrations or we’re concerned or afraid about something else going on. It’s not worth hassling with one another. We avoid that. We’ve talked a lot about that. It’s not a good look.

I don’t think it’s productive for anybody. Maybe because of the level of impact it has at times that it happened that we learned quickly. We’re like, “That will not be good and that’s going to be unproductive.” I want to talk about injuries. There’s a formulaic aspect to recovery from injuries. We’re talking about physical injuries. These can be emotional injuries too.

You can have emotional injuries and respond to them like you would a physical injury and go through the same formula that you would in that and you can recover. There’s a formulaic process to it. There’s a physical and spiritual manifestation of all things. We’re talking about injury, physical injury, and spiritual injury. When you look at the solution for both of those in the healing, it’s a similar process.

You said something pivotal and there’s a science around it. Dr. Kennedy, who wrote Anxiety RX, said, “For all the trauma, cognitive therapy has its place. Ultimately, the body never forgets.” When somebody feels anxious, the worst thing is to be in the mind. Get in the body. Where do feel it? How do you soothe yourself? Also, how do you work that out? I appreciate that parallel.

It’s hard to feel bad if your body’s feeling good.

That’s true.

If you’re feeling good, it’s hard to feel bad. When we’re not feeling good, it’s very easy to feel bad. Laying on the couch wounded, I start to feel bad. I feel bad but then I start to feel bad. You go through the mental thing of, “This is temporary. I’ve been through this before.” If you didn’t have that experience and you felt bad, it would be a downward spiral.

When I see you looking sad, it scares me way more than when I see you mad because you’re going to stomp around. You’re a stomp-around guy. When you look sad, I get nervous. Laird, thanks for your time.

Thanks for having me. The drive wasn’t that far. It was easy.

It was okay.

It’s easy to get here.

Your legs are looking great. You’re walking your gate. I sometimes watch you out the window. There’s something very primal. It’s a little caveman-y. Sometimes I appreciate that from far away.

A caveman with a limp.

I’m like, “There’s my guy. Look at him.”

Caveman-ing around.

Justin, any last questions?

I’ll continue that as long as I can.

Thank you for your time. Thank you for reading. Also, if you’re going through any of this, we wish you a speedy recovery.

Twice as fast.

Answers at least.

It’s all about the answers.

Thank you so much for reading this episode.

Stay tuned for a bonus episode where I go deeper on one of the topics that resonated with me. If you have any questions for my guests or even myself, please send them to @GabbyReece on Instagram. If you feel inspired, please hit the follow button and leave a rating and a comment. It not only helps me, but it also helps the show grow and reach new readers.

Subscribe to The Gabby Reece Show

[podcast_subscribe id=”5950″]

Resources mentioned:

About Laird Hamilton

Laird Hamilton headshot

Laird Hamilton is best known as an American big-wave surfer and pioneer in the world of action water sports. In addition to his affinity for the water, Laird is labeled as an inventor, author, stunt man, model, producer, TV host, fitness and nutrition expert, husband, father and adrenaline junkie. At 6’3” and 215 pounds, Laird is unique in the way that he balances flexibility and strength. A renowned innovator and guiding genius of crossover board sports including tow-in-surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and hydrofoil boarding, Laird is the essential Water Man, continuously pushing the limits and expanding all possibilities.