San Diego

Legendary Big Wave Surfer Rescues Encinitas Family Stranded in Kauai

"I just kept praying all night that angels would surround the house," Erin Gwilliam said. Then Laird Hamilton arrived

A San Diego family caught in the deluge in the Hawaiian island of Kauai this weekend found safety with the help of legendary big wave surfer Laird Hamilton.

Record rain, 27 inches in just 24 hours, stranded the Gwilliam family on their last day of vacation in Kauai. 

In the middle of the flooding and mudslides, Hamilton swooped in to save the stranded vacationers staying just across the river from his home.

The Gwilliams, traveling from Encinitas, California, were huge fans before this, now they're seeing their super surfer in a whole new light.

"We tried not to let the kids see but I was terrified," Erin Gwilliam said.

“It was kind of like scary and I just wanted to go home,” Erin’s daughter Elin said.

The Gwilliams rented a house along the river. The rain flooded the river past its banks and washed out a nearby bridge and surrounding roads. That left the Gwilliams with only one way out of the North Shore.

“It is the only way out. It's the only way for anyone on the North Shore," Elin’s father Jamas said.

"I just kept praying all night that angels would surround the house," Erin said.

Then Hamilton, the pioneering leader in tow-in surfing, where a person uses a personal watercraft to catch giant waves, came to the rescue.

"He just kind of boated right up and was like, 'OK, come through the mud and the slime and come throw your bags in and let's go,'" Erin said.

"He's got a lot of energy, right? I don't even know if he owns a T-shirt," Jamas said.

Hamilton's big wave reputation is well documented, but the Gwilliams got to know his good nature first hand.

Hamilton comforted the Gwilliam kids during the ferry ride and they took many pictures and videos along the way.

"Now it just confirms him as being a total legend in my book," Jamas said.

And it turns out it wasn't just the Gwilliams that Hamilton managed to ferry off the North Shore. He spent the entire day Saturday helping stranded visitors.

Hanalei, where the Gwilliams were staying, gets 78 inches of rain per year. During this storm, they received a third of that in just 24 hours.

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