Laird Hamilton – Legendary Surfer and Sauna Enthusiast
March 17, 2021
There are probably no surfers more respected or legendary than Laird Hamilton. He is to surfing what Michael Jordan is to basketball or Wayne Gretzky is to hockey. What impresses many people is that he’s no “has been” despite being in his 50s, he is as fit and rides as hard as he ever has. Laird is no competitive surfer, instead he has made his name through innovation and more importantly riding the most gut wrenching waves that were previously thought impossible.
So how is Laird able to continue to push himself to human extremes at an age most people seem to give up and let themselves go? Laird dislikes the idea of age being a limitation, but would admit it takes work to stay in top shape. If you have read Laird’s book Liferider you know that Laird is obsessive about getting and maintaining peak health since he has many more waves he wants to ride. So it is no surprise that Laird makes heavy use of sauna in his regimen.
“Sauna is one of the best investments you can make towards your health. Not only do you burn calories, increase your metabolism and lose fat, but it just makes you feel better.”- Laird Hamilton
Laird practices thermal contrast pairing ultra hot sauna use with plunging in a cold pool. This allegedly decreases inflammation, aids recovery, and act as a lymphatic massage. As Hamilton says “…sauna is one of the best investments you can make towards your health. Not only do you burn calories, increase your metabolism and lose fat, but it just makes you feel better.” When tasked with writing a list of fitness tips for Men’s Health, Laird placed the sauna as his #2 tip.
“Not long ago, some studies coming out of Finland alerted Hamilton to the benefits of heat in aiding recovery and he’s been adding sauna sessions to his workouts ever since. He now prefers it over ice. “Sure, we gravitate to ice because it’s more pleasurable,” he says. “If you’ve been running around and you’re hotter than snot and feeling beat up, you’re like ‘yeah numb me’”. But Hamilton learned that the hormones you produce in heat are actually more conducive to recovery. “All my boys and I hit the sauna for at least 15 minutes after we train.” Men’s Health Magazine, March 2019.
“Thermal regulation is the most energy consuming function that the body does. The ability to heat the body up and cool the body off is the most taxing on the body. So if you train in hot and cold you actually can build that system up and make that system stronger. Usually when an athlete starts to deteriorate in a performance it’s because they are overheating. The cold is a hormone regulator, it boosts testosterone, it makes you immune system very powerful. The heat allows you to learn how to deal with overheating which is again what happens when you’re performing. So ice and heat are incredible incredible ways of building your thermal regulation system.”
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