If you missed seeing Laird Hayes paddling the Newport Beach waves Friday morning, you may be able to watch him on NBC on Sunday night.
Hayes is the Orange Coast College instructor who switches from wearing wetsuits and teaching surfing to officiating NFL games on the same weekend.
“I just loved it (sports) since I was a little kid,” Hayes said.
Even though he did not professionally play sports, his determined personality drove him into coaching, teaching and refereeing. Based on his passion for sports, Hayes was able to build his career and get paid doing what he enjoys.
“I was always pretty good at everything, I was never great at anything,” Hayes said. “I was a good enough athlete but I was not a great athlete. But I liked playing sports and that is how I got into officiating and refereeing football.”
Hayes has been an NFL side judge for almost 21 years and has refereed three Super Bowls during this time.
He said one of the most important moments of his career was during Super Bowl XLVI when the New England Patriots played against the New York Giants and he made a sideline call with 3 minutes and 46 seconds left in the game.
The call, which was challenged by the Patriots’ coach, called a 38-yard pass to Mario Manningham complete because he had both feet inbounds. The Giants went on to win the game 21-17.
“Hayes made a very difficult call in real time,” former NFL director of officials Mike Pereira said to Fox Sports about the call. “I believe Hayes made the toughest call in a Super Bowl since edition XLIII,” Pereira said.
Even though Hayes said he enjoys his job, he thinks about maybe retiring after one more season.
“I’ll probably go one more year after this one. I’m 66 and I know I can do it for a couple more years,” Hayes said. “You get kind of addicted to it and it has been a lifestyle.”
He was the side judge Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers versus Seattle Seahawks game and will fly to Washington D.C. for the Giants versus Redskins game this weekend.
Hayes may be on TV on a regular basis but he does not like watching games at home since he likes to go to bed at 8:30 p.m.
“I don’t really watch that much sports on TV. It’s kind of a waste of time,” Hayes said. “You can read on the paper next day kind of what happened. And I usually go to bed early.”
Hayes has always liked to stay active. He played baseball, basketball and football during high school and some surfing during summer time in Santa Barbara where he is originally from. Then he went to Princeton University in New Jersey where he continued playing baseball and football.
It was after he finished his master’s and doctorate in higher education at UCLA that he started working as the assistant dean of student affairs for OCC in 1976 and then in 1985 became the director of community relations for the entire Coast Community Colleges District.
In 1987 Hayes was asked to coach the OCC men’s soccer team. He said he had great assistant coaches who helped him understand soccer.
“They needed a soccer coach for one year but I never played soccer in my life,” Hayes said. “[The assistant coach] did all the coaching and I just kind of managed everything.”
Hayes said the administration wanted someone full-time who was enthusiastic about OCC and he did not know about soccer but he had the other two.
“I wasn’t a soccer guy. I didn’t grow up with the sport,” Hayes said. “They wanted someone who really cared about Orange Coast and I’m passionate about Orange Coast.”
Kevin Smith, the current athletic director of OCC and the coach of the men’s and women’s soccer teams, was one of Hayes’ assistant coaches and worked with him for a long time.
Hayes coached the men’s soccer team for 25 years until he retired in 2011. The team won two state championships during that time. He said he loved to coach soccer but he definitely doesn’t miss the bus rides they had to do.
During his time coaching soccer at OCC some students contacted Hayes for help to start a Surf Club that later became a class and eventually a surf team that went to competitions.
“It just seems to make sense because of where we live,” Hayes said. “Hurley and Quicksilver were started in this town so it really made sense to have surfing as a G.E. class.”
Mechanical engineering major Anh Tran, 21, took the surf class in spring and is taking it again now. He said he signed up again for the class not just because he loves surfing but because he likes listening to the personalities that come to class.
“Very often we get informative and inspirational speakers,” Tran said. “I came back because Laird is a very cool teacher and I met many cool people at the surf class.”
But if you think about taking the surf class just to get a feeling of “The Endless Summer” movie, you may need to think it twice. On the first class you will probably hear the three words “be on time” at least every half hour together with Hayes saying that he is not “a dude type of guy.”
You can ask Robert Engelhard, 29, better known as Bobbi Cutback. He is an OCC alumni who has been volunteering for the surf class for six semesters. Engelhard said he made the wrong assumption of what a surf professor would be like.
“I was not expecting someone so strict and specific with his schedule,” Engelhard said.
However, Engelhard said Hayes is probably the number one reason he still come back to the class.
“He is super outgoing but super compassionate and kind,” Engelhard said. “I really appreciate how he gets involved with the community.”
Hayes said he likes to teach not just about riding waves but also about ocean safety. He said he had a 68-year-old student take the surf class once.
“I try to teach the right way. I try to teach about respect for the ocean and for the environment and for other people,” Hayes said.
Hayes is currently the instructor of the surfing and ocean safety class which takes place every Friday morning at 8 a.m. in Newport Beach near the life guard tower at the Newport Pier.
He also volunteers in policing for the city of Newport Beach where he lives with his wife, son and pets.