Laird was born Laird John Zerfas in San Francisco on March 2, 1964, in an experimental salt-water sphere at UCSF Medical Center designed to ease the mother's labor. His father, L. G. Zerfas,[a] left the family before his first birthday. While he was an infant, Laird and his mother, Joann (née Zyirek), moved to Hawaii. In 1967, while still a young boy living on Oahu, Laird met with 1960s surfer William Stuart "Bill" Hamilton, a bachelor at the time, on Pūpūkea beach on the North Shore. Bill Hamilton was a surfboard shaper and glasser on Oahu in the 1960s and 1970s and owned a small business handmaking custom, high-performance surfboards for the Oahu North Shore big wave riders of the era. The two became immediate companions. The young Laird invited Bill Hamilton home to meet his mother. Bill Hamilton married Laird's then-single mother, becoming Laird's adoptive father.