Surf the Turf with Laird Hamilton: GolfBoard

Laird catching a glide on a frozen
Laird catching a glide on a frozen “wave.”

Don’t you crave that feeling of “the Glide” when you catch a wave or down wind current? No matter our ability, that moment when wind and wave propel us forward we feel young and wild and free. After catching some solid waves we’re happier, friendlier and more relaxed. I live in Bend, Oregon so I think about surfing more than actually paddling for waves. When winter brings the ski-snowboard season and glides come from frozen waves – it’s all good. Fun, play, being active and the exhilarating feeling of wind in my hair – that’s the ticket!

Laird Hamilton is a co-founder of GolfBoard, based in Sisters, OR.
Laird Hamilton is a co-founder of GolfBoard, based in Sisters, OR.

While tens of thousands of surfers play golf, I spilt from the links a few decades ago. That was, until last weekend when I had the opportunity to chat with Laird Hamilton about his role in a company immersed in play, innovation, imagination and cool engineering: GolfBoard. (video HERE)

Laird was in town with friend and training partner, Don Wildman and the GolfBoard team as part of the festivities around the world’s first GolfBoard-only tournament at Tetherow. In the early stages of the interview while Laird and I got to know each other a bit, I happened to mention I was turning 66 in a few days with the shrug that said, “I am so old.”

Laird laughed and said, ‘You’re only as old as you think or behave. Energy and a sense of play keep you young. I’d like you to meet my great friend and the inventive mind behind GolfBoard, Don Wildman.” With that Don came over to join the conversation. How lucky was I to share in a conversation with these two guys. Do NOT miss the chance to learn more about Don Wildman (perfect name for this guy) and his life and training philosophies.

The following is an excerpt from the conversation I had with Laird before Don took over to teach me (in 1 minute) how to ride the GolfBoard. I loved the “woohoo” experience that just might have me dusting off the clubs and heading out for 9 holes of surfing the turf.

ElderSUP: What is it about the way you experience sports that influences your unique ability to innovate, invent and collaborate?

LH: I think innovation is in my DNA. I come from a long line of thinkers with a background in the sciences. I was a kid during the short board revolution in the 60’s so I was used to a lot of change around the sport of surfing.  We lived at the end of a street where we didn’t watch much TV. We didn’t have a ton of toys so we all just went out to play, imagine, create – play was the key that fed my imagination. My Mom was a big factor in developing the way I think. She read to me a lot, great books like LORD OF THE RINGS and such. I love to create. In fact, I love the process more than the end result. If I build something that I think is cool and then i see someone else using it – with a big grin – there’s the reward and confirmation that what I build was good.gb2

ES: How tough do you think it will be for clubs immersed in the conventional and traditional way of playing golf to take a more hybrid approach.  How will GolfBoard grow among golfers and their courses/clubs?

LH: I know that you ski, and you have plenty of snowboarders at Mt. Bachelor. Ski engineering and design was revolutionized by snowboard design. On the other hand, snowboarding evolved as it did because snowboarders were able to use the infrastructure of lifts and grooming at a ski resort. Golf has a long history and a huge worldwide following, but clubs need to innovate and change in order to gain a broader membership, bring in younger players and engage golfers in new ways. By testing GolfBoard, Speed Golf and even Don’s version of Renegade Golf at the  “early adopter” clubs like Tetherow we can use feedback – and watch for the smiles on the faces of golfers – in order to learn how to make the transition the best it can be. GolfBoard can impact the game of golf like snowboarding did for skiing.

ES: What are some benefits golf clubs and golfers can expect to gain by adopting GolfBoard and new way of playing?

LH: Golf has plenty of adaptation to scoring and play that change up the game, and for many players it makes the game more fun. One example is ‘best ball.” The scoring system in golf is based in a frustration cycle that measures all the failures. When a player moves from shot to shot on a GolfBoard, especially after a bad shot, they arrive ready to hit their next shot from a more relaxed and playful place. You have to concentrate and stay in engaged in the process of riding the GolfBoard. I hear it all the time. After a round or two playing on the GolfBoard people say, “That’s the most fun I have ever had playing golf.”

When people play golf the way strong and agile octegenarian Don Wildman does it will become more fun and dynamic
When people play golf the way strong and agile octegenarian Don Wildman does it will become more fun and dynamic

Don Wildman, GolfBoard inventor added some thoughtful insights, “People are busy and time is the most valuable commodity for many. One way to get more done is multi-tasking. Playing golf on the GolfBoard is faster. Speed of play is one of the most frustating aspect of golf for many players and one of the complaints most heard by club management.”

Don continued, “It’s great for the older golfer for many reasons. If a person was used to walking the course, instead of moving into riding a cart as walking becomes more difficult, they can switch to the GolfBoard. For any golfer it’s easy to get stiff while sitting in a cart between shots. If you balance and move your whole body from shot to shot you arrive at the next shot more relaxed and ready.”

ES: How hard is it to learn to ride the GolfBoard?

LH:  The learning curve is about as close to zero as it can be. Similar to standup paddling, once a person is on the board the actual riding or paddling is intuitive. We have had more than 1100 golfers riding the GolfBoard without a crash. We built the GolfBoard with specifications suited to preserve the conservancy of golf as a sport and the course.

gb7I appreciate the time with Laird, Don and the entire GolfBoard team. The inaugural GolfBoard tournament at Tetherow was stellar!  You can FOLLOW GolfBoard on FACEBOOK.

I have to stop writing now and go workout (not exactly how Laird goes about it) – and maybe grab Ed and head over to Aspen Lakes or Tetherow for some GolfBoard turf-surfing.

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