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Why Legends Never Die

‘Heroes get remembered,… but legends never die.’

- The Sandlot

Gabby Reece and Laird Hamilton on the Beach

To Coaches, Teachers, Parents,

I recently visited Kauai, Hawaii to attend an XPT Life retreat hosted by Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reece, Brian McKenzie, Kelly Starrett and Juliet Starrett. (Check it out: On my first day in Kauai, I had some time to kill before the retreat started so I rented a stand up paddle board and headed up the river channel only to be stopped by a stranger…

“You know - You’re putting an awful lot of effort into that stroke.”

I was shocked when I looked to my left to see a very fit, middle aged, blonde haired man and his wiry dog in a small motor boat idling next to me. The man’s skin was taught and bronzed to the point of no return as if he had been baking in the sun without sunscreen for decades. (I later found this observation to be true.) His blue eyes were piercing and his hair seemed to be the texture of straw in the Mojave Desert. I immediately recognized the man as a famous big wave surfer and one of the hosts of the retreat I’d be attending over the next 3 days, Laird Hamilton. What I didn’t recognize at the time is that he is much more than just a surfing extraordinaire.

“Well…how can I do it better?” I asked as I tried to soak in every last second of what was happening.

It was as if he couldn’t help himself. He quickly motioned me over, basically threw me in to his boat next to his dog and hopped on the stand up paddle board to show me how to do it correctly. As he instructed me, paddling with ease through the water, I marveled at his passion. He spoke quickly and deliberately, describing the stroke while demonstrating. He didn’t know I would be in the retreat the next day, who I was, what I did for a living or if I even cared about my stand up paddle stroke. He just couldn’t resist an opportunity to make someone better. He literally took time away from his most prized activity (surfing), to teach. And when I did tell him that I would be at the XPT event, he brushed it off quickly and said, “Well, good! Your lesson starts today.” As quickly as it had begun, the lesson with the famed surfer ended. He watched me paddle off, using the techniques that he had passed on and then motored off to the sea to join his ‘girlfriend’ as his wife Gabby playfully calls the waves.

I grinned as I paddled up the channel. I could have skipped the next three days and gone home being sure of the breadth of the passion that the Hamilton family exudes.

Kauai is a quiet place, full of Hawaiian culture and relatively untouched by massive amounts of tourism like the other islands. My plane touched down at 11:45pm 2 nights before the retreat began and I had to find lodging that evening. I went for the most logical choice for staying the night on an island. A tent. (Airbnb: The only things I could hear while I was drifting to sleep that night were waves crashing in the distance and crickets serenading me with their nightly song. Nature in its truest form is hard to come by and it seems to be more scarce by the minute. Environments that lend themselves to peaceful, or even meditative states are prime real estate in my mind. After spending a little time in the wonderment that is Kauai, it’s easy to see the source of Gabby and Laird’s passion.

But - Passion for what? Water? Surfing? Hawaiian Culture? These may be true, but I think it’s something much deeper, yet simpler than that. The things that Laird does are what make him memorable. But that’s not why he will live on many years after he has died. The answer to this question of their true passion is why I really appreciated him and his wife, Gabby Reece. They are both very passionate human beings. But what they ‘do’ isn’t their passion. Passion for nutrition, outdoors, an active lifestyle and travel is something that is shared by many. What makes them unique is something that few people in their shoes truly possess. They were both models and professional athletes at one point and are now successful entrepreneurs. They are ‘wealthy’ in the traditional sense and that allows them to own and do certain things. But I’m sure they wouldn’t tell you that they are successful based on that fact. I can almost guarantee that Gabby gets more joy out of teaching her ‘High X’ class at Common Ground than hosting any television show. I had the pleasure of attending one of these circuit training classes that she puts on for the community in Kauai for a dollar donation. Her energy is electric and I can tell you, she is just about as good of a coach as some of the ‘professional’ strength coaches I encounter. So- is their passion for sports, surfing and coffee? Yea, sure. But their driving force in life is clearly something much more valuable and meaningful. It is their passion for empowerment that is their most striking feature. Both of them are teachers and mentors. To. The. Bone.

And that is why legends never die. Their legacy will live on through the people and generations that they have inspired to greatness.

“If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

-Isaac Newton

This was pivotal in my own career. If it wasn’t for my countless mentors, past and present, where would I be? All too often, I hear coaches saying, “Can you believe this email that this kid sent me?” Or, “He has no idea what he is doing.” I can remember a time not to long ago that I sent ridiculous emails to people and had no idea what I was doing. (Probably still do.) Thankfully, I benefitted from mentorship from great coaches and the research of countless professionals that have come before me. In the world of professional sports, there seems to be a lack of willingness to do this at times. We are up here and they are down there and that’s where they’ll always be. But this is a much more intimate topic than that for me.

This has become a priority for me in the past 1-2 years. Almost immediately after being hired by the Cardinals in 2014 in a ground breaking role for women, I felt dissatisfied. As expected, I was elated to receive the news that I’d been offered the job and that I would be moving to Florida to take the position and start working my first ‘real’ job for such a prestigious organization. I drove for two days, unpacked my things in Florida, set up my desk at the Cardinals’ training facility, sat down in my comfy chair with a smile on my face and began working my ass off. But something was off. I had a nice salary for someone my age, a nice apartment, good friends in my co-workers and a beach to go to every night after work if I wanted. This wasn’t the type of dissatisfaction that leaves you wanting more money, a better job or more things; But rather, an emptiness. I had been given an opportunity and hadn’t yet figured out how I would use it. At first I was a little confused. I almost felt disappointed in myself. Like I wasn’t doing enough, but I wasn’t quite sure how to fix it. Then, it started to happen. I’ll never forget the first note I received from a young woman. She was in high school. She played softball and was getting bullied because she was ‘big’ and liked to lift weights. That’s not the most common type of email that I receive, but it is the most memorable. I’m passionate about my job and the things that I actually do on a daily basis in my work. But it’s the people that I can deeply impact, mentor and guide in their own journeys that fulfill me. Sometimes it’s the players, but more and more, it’s the young ladies that reach out to me, the fathers that seek advice in raising their daughters to be confident young women and the young professionals that need encouragement when starting their 3rd unpaid internship. Strength and conditioning is my platform, but empowerment is my passion.

Legends like Laird never actually die because they pay it forward. I have this passion and this opportunity for a reason. It’s called purpose. What is the point in having an opportunity, talent or passion if you can’t share it to improve the lives of others? What a vacant existence that would be.

Legends never die because they live on in the peoples’ lives that they have had an opportunity to inspire.

Who can you serve?

How do you want to be remembered?

What is the legacy that you will leave behind?


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