3 x world Champion Damian King is back home after taking home the Drop Knee crown in Puerto Rico. There’s not much more to achieve in the sport for the ‘king’, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be stopping just yet.
There is one more event in the 2011 season, but you’ve already taken out the Drop Knee crown – your third world title in the sport of bodyboarding. What has the 2011 season been like so far?
It’s been a strong season. We had a new investor come in and buy the International Bodyboard Association (IBA). In each event he has put in a $100,000 media budget, and he’s tried a lot of different things to get the sport more into the mainstream – and also attract a big name sponsor. So this year has been a big step up in terms of the general profile of the sport. We have our own production crew in charge of doing documentaries and a live broadcast of the events. It’s been live for a few years, but it’s been done by different media groups – so the quality has been inconsistent. This new crew are some of the best guys in the world at what they do. Every event on the tour is produced the same, and the content is consistent. I think they’re doing a great job of packaging the sport, and it’s starting to get some big names like Red Bull involved.
When you finished your semi final heat, did you know you’d won the title at that stage?
I had a quarter final heat, and I knew I had to win it to get the title. It was a man on man heat against Ardiel Jimenez from the Canary Islands. I went into it very confident, because although he’s really good, I’d beaten him a few times before. I tried my best to stay relaxed and focused, thinking: “I can beat him”. But he got a score of 8.5, and then backed it up with a 7 within the first five minutes of the heat. That put me in a corner. For the rest of the heat I was just focused on getting good scores, slowly getting better and better. Then it came down to the last 30 seconds. I knew I needed a 6.8 to win, and took off on my last wave and blew it. I could do it ten times in a row again, and it wouldn’t happen. I went for a snap, and it didn’t work out for me. I thought, “Oh no … I just lost the world title on that wave”.
There was about 15 seconds left in the heat after that. It was a paddling race with Ardiel to get back out and keep priority. With 5 seconds to go, a left hand wave popped up. I needed a 6.8 to win, and knew I had to give it everything. Back at the beach, I waited for the scores. Everyone was waiting too, not saying a word, because there is a big difference between winning and losing. After about 20 seconds, the scores came in – and I got a 6.9. It was a great feeling, because I didn’t think I’d won, but just snatched it in the very last second. That that made it all feel as good as any world title I’d won before.
Did you know there would be such a big deal on the achievement of now winning both the Prone and Drop Knee world titles?
It’s not something that anyone might match in a hurry. Not really. I knew personally that I wanted to do it for that exact reason. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but since then I think everyone has realised what I was thinking – which is cool. I personally think it’s a pretty good achievement to do it in both. Bodyboarding is such a versatile sport, but it’s either Drop Knee or Prone. Most guys do one and refuse to do the other. There aren’t that many versatile riders who do both, so I think this will push the sport and will only help it grow.
You have your boards built right here in Port Macquarie at the TURBO factory. Tell us a bit about your own signature board.
I think my boards are built for speed. They have a stringer system that makes them strong in the tail, which gives a lot of speed, and a concave, which gives it control. I think if you have control and speed, that’s all that really matters. The rest is up to you. There are a lot of contours, gimmicks and gadgets in boards these days, but I think if you have speed and control, that’s all you really need. So, I’ve just tried to build my boards around that.
How lucky are you to have your own shaper, Glenn Taylor from TURBO, right here in town?
It’s been amazing. On my last trip, we had some problems with cores. So I asked Glenn to make two more … and then another two. In the end, he made 6 boards for me. If you don’t have something you’re comfortable on and it’s perfect, that’s the difference between winning and losing. He understands that, and he’ll go the extra mile to make my boards perfect. So when I step on the plane, I know I have the right boards to get the job done.
Speaking of planes, where in the world has the sport taken you to?
Deep breath … Hawaii (14x), Fiji (3x), Tahiti (5x), Portugal (6x), Solomon Islands (3x), Easter Island, South Africa, Philippines (2x), Thailand (2x), Japan (2x), Reunion Island, Mauritius, Indonesia (3x), Rome, Paris, Italy, Ireland (2x), England (2x), Berlin, France (2x), Spain (6x), Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico (3x), America (3x) … and there are some I’m missing, for sure.
What was your most memorable wave?
That would have been the wave I nearly drowned on about 3 months ago in Fiji, at a surf spot called Cloudbreak … not a good memory. I definitely won’t forget that in a hurry, because I passed out. It was just an unbelievably scary experience. But my best wave would have been the very first wave I got in the final of my first world title. I scored a 9.5 in the first 5 seconds. I knew when I got that wave I’d won the world championship.
Tell us a little about your videos …
I made my first video The Joker I, which was a documentary on my first world title; which, apart from the world titles, has been the best thing I’ve ever done in my career. My mum passed away, and that was the start of a chain of events which made me win the world title – which is documented in the video. I took a break from the competitive side of the sport to make a second video, The Joker II. This was a video on what I was doing, chasing waves all over Australia, culminating in finding the biggest waves in the world.
Plus, I’ve done podcasts, which have been the most popular podcasts in bodyboarding – these are just funny videos combined with bodyboarding. Then the last video was the instructional DVD, which has everything from how to buy a bodyboard to being a professional, including all the steps and the training involved.
What are your goals for next year?
I’d love to be able to win another Prone world title. Over the next few years, that’s my goal – and also to enjoy what I’m doing and not just hang on because it’s a job; which I don’t think is that case yet. I’ve seen that happen to a few other people. As long as I still have it and have a passion to win, then I’ll keep going.
Thanks Damian. Congrats on the win.