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.