By the age of 17, Hamilton had become an accomplished surfer and could have left modeling to pursue a career on surfing’s World Championship Tour. However, competitive surfing and contests never appealed to Hamilton, who had watched his father Bill endure the competitive surfing contest politics and the random luck of the waves in organized championship surfing events. Bill Hamilton regarded surfing more as a work of art, rather than based chiefly on wave-by-wave ride performance scored by judges.
In the 1987 movie North Shore, Hamilton played the violent, antagonistic role of “Lance Burkhart”. Despite further success in modeling during the 1980s, Hamilton, with his professional surfing upbringing, always intended a life of surfing, but continued to reject the professional contest circuit.