Driven by a mission to surf bigger swells, Hamilton was among the first to harness horsepower to catch monster waves. His experimentations with Jet Skis kicked off surfing's most iconic, and dangerous, revolution, immortalized in the 2004 film Riding Giants, which showed Hamilton being flung into a five-story–high barrel at Teahupoo. The wave is still considered one of the heaviest ever ridden. A fall would have been "like getting driven through a cheese grater by a steamroller," he once said. Hamilton continued his experimentation over the years, attaching a hydrofoil to the bottom of his board (in order to ride above the waves), and in 2003, helping introduce the world to SUP. But his name will be linked to giant swells forever. "Most surfers see Laird as either an influence or hero," says champion rider Greg Long. "He pushed the sport by showing it was possible to survive waves that were once thought impossible."