I photographed Gabby and Laird at their property on Kauai, near Hanalei. I was dealing with great anticipation. Laird had been a person of admiration and mystery for a very long time and I felt nervous. I knew that the only way to get them to open up was to be absolutely real, no bullshit. So I decided to just wear a t-shirt some board shorts and no shoes. Something I would be wearing at home. It was a little bit of a gamble but taking the risk would pay off.
We got to Laird’s hangar-type structure and after a little while he came in from Hanalei Bay and up the path towards us. After initial hellos he made us some of his coffee and we all hung out in the kitchen for a little while. I took some documentary style images of what was happening and we started to warm up.
I didn’t know beforehand how much time we would have together but it quickly became clear that nobody was in any rush. Laird started playing with his foil and we all just sort of hung out in the hangar and chatted. All the while I documented and created little set ups here and there to take more posed portraits of them. I told stories of my family, vacations in Italy and I could tell that both Gabby and Laird took a liking to me, they opened up more and more. As always the old, mechanical Hasselblad was intriguing and raised some eyebrows.
The day progressed and at some point Laird went down towards the boats and cut some fresh coconuts for us. It was a great moment. Here was Laird Hamilton, arguably one of the - if not the most - prolific and inventive surfers of all time and he was cutting coconuts for us in his boardshorts.
As the afternoon neared it’s end Gabby suggested we go out on the boat into the bay. The light was turning magic and we floated on this tiny little nutshell down the river and into Hanalei Bay. Laird pointed out the way the sunrays were filtered through the clouds and created this magical display of light, just spectacular. It was an incredibly personal moment and I felt humbled being there with them.
As we came back in we shot past the house and went upriver for a little bit. All the time their little dog was jumping all around the boat in excitement, sometimes ending up standing on me like I was just a convenient object that allowed him to gain some height. It earned amusement around the boat. Then we came through a spot in the river that was a little tighter than the rest and I took this portrait of Gabby and Laird that perfectly described the day I had just had with them.