posted on May 09, 2007 03:00
Legenday surfer Laird Hamilton jetted into Dublin on Tuesday to make publicity appearances on behalf of his sponsor Oxbow at both Onboard Surf Shop in Duke Street and 53 Degrees North in Carrickmines where he signed autographs and posed for photographs. A big guy in every respect; his SUV was parked outside the Shelbourne Hotel with a massive surfboard lashed to the top, he is best known on this side of the Atlantic for his starring role in 'Riding Giants' which he helped to finance.
So far, so what. This sort of thing happens all the time in music stores around Ireland when an artist has a new album to plug but it is very new in the world of Irish surfing and has caused some comment, in particular the fact that although the autograph signings were free, the talk and presentation that Hamilton gave at 6pm in 53 Degrees North came with a price tag of € 5.00 leaving some people to question why should they have to pay for what was, in effect, a marketing trip on behalf of his sponsor ?
Now, I didn't got to either of the signings nor did I attend the talk so I cannot comment on whether it was worth the time or money. I'm sure Laird had some excellent advice to impart; as does any person who is at the top of their profession, although I think the opportunities of learning from an expert surfer are very limited if you are not in the water with them. The main reason though that I didn't show up was that I think you should only stand in line for one of your heroes and none of my heroes are surfers because there is nothing heroic, in my opinion, about surfing.
Surfing is, when you strip it down, a selfish pursuit. It's one person - one wave and it is pursued primarily for self gratification. I'm sure Laird is a wonderful person and he certainly gave his all to his Irish fans on Tuesday but he appears no more heroic to me than any excellent athlete. That is not to diminish his many amazing sporting achievements but, you see, its not what you do on your own behalf that marks you out as a hero, its what you do on behalf of others. Bob Geldof on television promoting his song " I Don't Like Mondays" is not heroic. Bob Geldof on television during Live Aid, pleading with people "to give us your f*cking money", that's the stuff of a hero.
It's a point well made in the somewhat clunky but heartfelt blockbuster 'The Guardian" which stars Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher as two US Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers. The real life motto of these guys is "So Others May Live". Yes, the dialogue was a little jaded, yes the plotting was full of cliches but the central idea of the movie, that you devote your life to helping others, ran through the script like the stringer in a surfboard.
Laird Hamilton performs superhuman feats in the Pacific ocean, he looks great in magazines and on screen, and there are certainly many who would wish to emulate his sporting abilities but he is not my idea of a real hero. And it is a view that surf writer Matt Warshaw appears to share, "Surfing is devalued by all the inflated talk of gods and heroes. It is nothing but a rhythm, a pulse, an alternating tension and relaxation - and that is grand enough"
So who is a real hero? Well, the people who serve in the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI for a start. Like I said before, its not what you do for yourself that counts, its what you do for others. And don't go telling them about some surfer dude challenging the might of the ocean, they know all too well the real power of the invulnerable tide.