From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
AS ONE OF TWO BLONDS AMONG THE PRIMARILY Japanese, Samoan and Filipino students at Kapaa High on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, Laird Hamilton couldn't get a date. Classmates called him "haole," an unkind word for a white person. "Girls liked me," he says, "but their brothers and cousins would not let them go out with me." The rejection "made me who I am," says the 6'3", 225-lb. Hamilton, who has been labeled as nothing less than a "demigod" by Surfer magazine. Taking after his dad, Bill, who was also a champion surfer, Hamilton "grew up in a pair of trunks and a T-shirt," says his mother, JoAnn, a helicopter tour operator. "I never saw anyone pay as little attention to himself as he does." One of the best big-wave riders in the world, Hamilton, 32, stopped counting emergency-room stitches at 1,000. "I've scared all the girls on the beach," he says. "You know those head wounds: Blood pours everywhere." How perfect that his girlfriend, volleyball vixen Gabrielle Reece, is host of a syndicated sports show about daredevils called The Extremists. "Laird in motion is very sexy," she says. Now, if only she could get him to wear sunscreen.