Legendary watermen Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama accomplish superhuman feats in the world’s oceans, but perhaps their most meaningful achievement yet is helping their friend, renowned and respected water photographer/cinematographer, Don King, battle his son’s struggle with autism.
On Saturday, August 4, Laird and Dave, along with sponsor Becker Surfboards and co-sponsor Oxbow, held Path of Purpose at Paradise Cove in Malibu. The goal: to raise money and awareness for autism research, and King’s film, Beautiful Son.
The Becker event was a success, said Mike Voegtlin, the event organizer. “At the end of the night we had raised over $40,000 dollars for autism and Don’s mission. That was amazing, that was what the event was really about. It was really cool to see the Malibu community and the surf industry come together for such a special event.”
Two stand-up paddleboards (one shaped by Ron House and one from Becker) and one-on-one time with Laird and Dave were auctioned off, bringing in well over $25,000 alone. Guests got to test their stand-up paddle skills at a beach that usually bans surfboards, with at least a dozen paddleboards in rotation throughout the afternoon. Dave Kalama auctioned off a 2-day Kalama Camp for $13,000, adding, “We’ll go over to Laird’s house and TP it.”
As the night wound down, the event culminated with the premiere of the film Path of Purpose (for which the day’s event was named). The film documents Laird and Dave’s immense efforts to help their friend; beginning with Laird’s bike and paddle board journey from London to Paris and ending with Laird and Dave’s 500+ mile paddle/pedal across the Hawaiian Island chain.
The event not only entertained a crowd full of generous guests, but educated them about autism. As a neurological disorder, it severely affects speech and social interaction. According to the Autism Society of America, the disease has been increasing at an alarming rate and currently affects about 1 in every 150 children.
In August of 2003, when Don’s son, Beau, turned three years old, the happy baby suddenly wouldn’t talk or make eye contact with his father. Don said it was like a light had gone out.
“My wife and I decided to do a documentary film with our autistic son because there are kids who are getting treatment and getting better,” Don said on Saturday evening.
“We were making the film on our own and Laird knew about it. One day he said, ‘Don, I’m going to go to London and ride my bike, paddle across the channel to France, and then ride my bike to Paris. And I’m going to do it as a fund-raiser for your film.’ I couldn’t believe a friend would do something like that to support a friend who was struggling,” Don said.
“The parents, the people that have to live with children that are autistic, that’s a heavy thing. Maybe they blame themselves. And then they have to live with the every day of living with someone who is autistic. I have this incredible respect for Don King and his family, and I’m just thankful that I just have to deal with a lot of questions from my children… and a lot of answers,” said Laird at one point in the evening. “Dave and I have been really fortunate to be able to do the things that we’ve done and maybe be able to help these causes that are becoming more and more realistic in our society.”
“The one thing that Laird and I can do to help Don King and autism in general, is do what we do,” said Dave Kalama. “It might be the only thing we can do, period, but hopefully it’s helping.”
As Laird tackles the final leg of his journey from London to Paris, he concedes his fatigue and exhaustion, but refuses to quit. He says thinking about the families affected by autism keeps him going.
“You are on a mission for a cause bigger than yourself,” Laird says. “No matter what you’re doing, you can do more. A lot more.”
Among those who turned out to support the cause was tennis legend John MacEnroe, actor John C. McGinley, who plays the curmudgeonly Dr. Cox on “Scrubs”, Rachel Griffiths of HBO’s “Six Feet Under” and her family, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine with their kids, Giada De Laurentiis of the Food Network, Jason Momoa of TV’s North Shore, former SURFER editor Sam George, and Nia Peeples of the 1987 cult classic North Shore.