A vacationing family on Kauai thought they would be trapped on the island for weeks until pro-surfer Laird Hamilton rescued them from the floods with his own boat.
"I don’t think he really slept,” father-of-three Jamas Gwilliam, 38, told InsideEdition.com. “He’d been out rescuing people that had been stranded and we’re just one of many he helped. He’s always been kind of a legend to me in terms of surfing. This just kind of solidifies it as a next status."
Gwilliam, of Southern California, explained he was on a typical Hawaiian vacation with his family for about a week when record-breaking rains fell on Kauai and the governor declared a state of emergency.
"We were hoping that the rain would stop, but it literally became more and more intense, like all day and all night," Gwilliam said. "And then the water started to rise, and it was pretty scary. The thunder and lightning kind of rolled in. The rain was just... it was the heaviest, most intense rain I’ve ever seen."
Roads began flooding and the lone bridge leading off the island was shut. They had no access to electricity or running water in their rental home and Gwilliam said a local grocery store began rationing supplies.
"We were trying not to scare [our kids] too much, but they were getting a little bit concerned, I could tell," he explained. "There are people who I saw there in Hanalei who said they hadn’t seen anything like that in 50 years."
Just as they were getting nervous they would trapped in their rental home until the floods subsided, Gwilliam said they got a call from a friend, letting them know that surfer Laird Hamilton, who lives nearby and owns a boat, was doing rescues.
“I’m like, ‘Look for Laird? Are you serious?’” said Gwilliam, who admitted he was a big fan of the pro-surfer.
When they waded into the flooded pick-up area the next morning, with their three young children and luggage in tow, Gwilliam said he was surprised at Hamilton’s generosity.
“We went down to the edge of the river and he pulled up in the boat with his daughter and we threw our luggage in, and he was super cool, you know, chatting with my kids, and he had been doing it all night for like 36 hours,” Gwilliam said. “It was an incredible effort because the emergency crews couldn’t get across the bridge, the weather was so bad they couldn’t fly in, so they took it on themselves to take care of everybody.”
Gwilliam and his family all made it home to San Diego safely, and he said while their family vacation was filled with highs and lows, their most prominent memory is of their surfing idol saving the day.