Lewis Hamilton reveals scary moment he nearly drowned surfing with Kelly Slater

‘I nearly ran out of air,’ the Formula 1 driver said

Lydia Spencer-Elliott
Friday 31 May 2024 15:11 BST
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Lewis Hamilton has detailed the terrifying moment he thought he was going to die while out on the water with the American pro surfer Kelly Slater.

The Formula 1 driver, 39, was surfing the notoriously dangerous Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii with Slater when the 20 foot high waves became unmanageable.

Hamilton attempted to paddle back to shore but “got sucked into the kill zone” of the surf reef and immediately thought his life was over.

Speaking on the Hot Ones podcast, Hamilton said he jumped from his surfboard and submerged himself underwater to avoid four giant waves that were coming towards him.

The Formula 1 driver’s surfboard was snapped in half by the monstrous waves and he was left fighting to survive beneath the surface of the water.

“I could hear this wave crash above me,” he said. “I came back up gasping for air but the next [wave] was coming so I went back down. I nearly ran out of air. I nearly drowned.”

“After that I was like, ‘ok, massive props to these surfers,’” he added.

Lewis Hamilton Kelly Slater and Shane Warne at the Australian Cricket in 2007
Lewis Hamilton Kelly Slater and Shane Warne at the Australian Cricket in 2007 (Getty Images)

Hamilton began surfing with Slater when he joined his Surf Ranch in San Joaquin, California, back in 2019.

The F1 driver is not the only celebrity to train with Slater. Chris Hemsworth has been surfing with the pro as early as 2016,  when they hit the waves in Fiji while on holiday.

Hemsworth has also been involved in near-death surfing accidents. Back in 2018, the Thor star was thrown off his board in Canada after a ginormous wave hit him in the back of the head.

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The actor laughed off the incident, writing on social media at the time: “Trying out a new move here, it’s called ‘get smashed in the back of the head by the lip and dusted along the reef’.

“It’s so much fun, don’t try it.”

Elsewhere in Hamilton’s Hot Ones interview, he described the “awesome” thrill of racing through Silverstone’s famous Maggots and Becketts section, claiming the corners are “beautiful”.

Hamilton thought he was going to die when 20 foot waves crashed onto him in Hawaii
Hamilton thought he was going to die when 20 foot waves crashed onto him in Hawaii (PA Wire)

Turns 11 and 13 at the British Grand Prix track have become among the most notable on the Formula 1 calendar since the race settled in Northamptonshire in 1987.

Until 1991, the corners were relatively distinct but cars now take on the sequence almost as one at high speed, flying into the section after the equally quick Copse corner.

“They are not treacherous,” Hamilton said. “As racing drivers, we don’t look at them as treacherous - we are thrill seekers.

“For me, it’s awesome, you want to go through the corners faster. I remember the first time I drove a Formula 1 car in 2006: Copse is normally a corner you take at full throttle at 190mph.

“I was thinking, ‘you’ve got take it hard, go for it’. They were really impressed that I went for it so much,” he added.

Hamilton continued: “But Maggots and Becketts is just the most beautiful, fast-flowing section. You’re full speed all the way in, doing 190, 200 [mph] or something like that, and that’s where you get the most G-force.

“Your body is being thrown around, your insides are being thrown around. But when you hit the sweet spot, it’s like poetry in motion.”

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