Bill Hamilton

Bill Hamilton

Bill Hamilton (August 27, 1948- ) was born in Long Beach, California, where he and his half-brother, Gordon, surfed South Laguna Beach. In 1959, Hamilton was riding a Hobie double-ender, anywhere from Rincon to Baja. Winning the Junior Division of the Brooks Street Classic in 1963 earned Hamilton membership into the prestigious Windansea Surf Club. He joined them for the annual Makaha Championships the following year. In 1966, he returned to Hawaii and was acknowledged as one of the most popular surfers around, placing sixth in the Surfer Poll. The young filmmaking duo of MacGillivray/Freeman chose him to co-star with Mark Martinson in two monumental films, Free and Easy and Sunshine Sea. He placed second at both the Smirnoff and Duke, in 1970. But, family took priority and he soon left the scene behind.

Joann Zyirek's toddler son, Laird, had chosen Hamilton to be his father on the beach at Ehukai in 1967. Fortunately, Billy and Joann were also attracted, and they soon married. Another son, Lyon, was born in 1969. The next year, the clan relocated to the lush isolation of Kauai, an area Hamilton had longed for since experiencing it in his days with MacGillivray and Freeman. He had begun shaping under the tutelage of Surfboards Hawaii's John Price in 1967, but turned to commercial fishing on Kauai for more income. He would continue shaping, finding work with Country Surfboards, Chuck Dent and Lightning Bolt.

In 1976, Hamilton was chosen to do the surfing for Jan-Michael Vincent's character, Matt Johnson, in John Milius' Big Wednesday, as well as the scene in which lifeguards abandon their small boat in the pit of a gigantic oncoming wave. Afterward, Hamilton began shaping under the Bear label depicted in the movie. Business boomed with the late '80s surfwear explosion as Bear expanded its line, replacing fishing as his main source of income. The success was fleeting as Milius sued for patent rights, leaving Hamilton back where he started.

Hamilton remains on Kauai, near Hanalei, with his wife Rhonda and Bill are divorced too.

(he and Joann divorced in 1977). He has been growing and harvesting Balsa wood on Kauai for the past fifteen years and makes beautiful Guns and longboards using a wide varity of exotic hard and soft woods. These surfboards are primarly wall hangers and sell from $10,000 to $50,000. He is actively involved in environmental matters that affect his adopted home and has enjoyed success in opposing detrimental building projects. Nowadays, he shapes under the Billy Hamilton label. His stepson Laird is among surfing's premier big-wave rider, leading the tow-in revolution around the world. In 1974 Hamilton founded the first surf school in Hanalei, and also the first Kayak tours up the Hanalei river. Today his surfing school is up and running with more information found at Phone 808-651-2636. Hamilton continues to shape custom surfboards all over the world. His next shaping stint will be in Santa Cruz in late June 2012 to complete some old growth redwood big wave guns and replicas of the tow board Laird used on the "Millennium" wave in Tahiti out of 2800 year old Sequioa wood. Hamilton will be taking foam orders as well at

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