Port Macquarie’s Damian King became the first two-time World Bodyboarding Champion to come from Australia when he won back to back titles in 2004 and 2005. We talk to Damian about what he loves about the sport.
>You are now 30 years old. When did you first start bodyboarding … and do you remember your first wave?
I started bodyboarding when I was 12. My first good wave was when I was about 13. I had this old trendy, bendy bodyboard that I found on the beach; it was old and slow. I must have taken off on a really good wave and the tube came over me; I couldn’t get out of the tube, I was just going the same speed as it.
I ended up getting a really long barrel and I remember it felt pretty deep. I kept hanging on and came out at the end … I was so stoked.
> Port Macquarie is often described as a great location for bodyboarding – do you agree?
Yeah, I think so. The waves are punchy, which is good for the bodyboarders to practice airs and other moves.
> How does bodyboarding compare to surfing? What do you enjoy most about bodyboarding?
I don’t think you can really compare them; they are 2 totally different sports and good in their own right and wave conditions. It’s not about what’s better and what’s not – at the end of the day whoever has the most fun in the water wins. From what I’ve experienced, both parties are on equal highs.
Surfing is fast and fluent, and if you’re a good surfer you’ll be able to surf a lot of the heavier waves in the world. As a Grom, what drew me to bodyboarding was the moves that you can do on a wave; it’s more orientated around projecting off the lip, with backflips, 360 airs, barrel rolls, etc. Now that I’m older, I am a little more experienced and my bodyboard allows me to get into some of the world’s heaviest and shallow waves. Because you’re lying on your board, you can free fall into waves when they jack in front of you and get into some positions on waves which would be hard on a surfboard.
> You have reached the pinnacle of the sport and won back-to-back World Champion titles in 2004 and 2005. How did it feel to achieve that success and how much effort and training did it take to get there?
I had a feeling hard to explain; I thought I was going to faint. The training was ridiculous and I think I have been too lazy to train that hard again. However, just lately I have been getting asked to start training again and have another shot.
Having the opportunity to chase my dream and win a world title, it was a great opportunity and I still can’t believe I got there. Bodyboarding also let me see the world, which has been a great experience.
> The sport obviously requires physical strength and skill. Does your mental focus also play a part?
I think it’s all the same thing. Once you have your body at a strength and flexibility you’re happy with, you automatically get the confidence/mental state to win in competitions.
> Catching large, heavy waves on some of the world’s most feared breaks such as Teahupoo in Tahiti obviously comes with an element of risk. Have you had any close calls?
Yeah, I’ve had a few. However, I think I have been lucky in comparison to some of my friends. I have dislocated both of my shoulders a few times landing airs and I’m recovering now from a torn ligament; my worst was a potentially broken back.
I nearly broke my spine once in Hawaii. I just arrived on the north shore from Port – I had been training heaps and I paddled out in my first surf on a 6 to 10 foot pipe.
I was feeling really amped and cocky and I took off on a pretty solid wave at back door. I tried a silly move on the take off and went straight over the falls with the lip. I landed head first on the reef, with my legs above my head. My spine from my neck down to my bum was sore for a week.
Not as bad as my friend though; a couple of days later he hit his back and has been in a wheelchair ever since.
> You received a big civic reception in Port Macquarie after your world title wins. Have you received a lot of local support over the years?
Yeah, I have, and it’s probably a good time to mention the people who have got behind me over the years. Sue from Discovery Heath and Fitness gave me a gym sponsorship for the past 5 years, which has really helped. Rick from Midcoast Marine hooked me up with a 2007 Yamaha jetski and looks after me whenever I need help with servicing etc.
Julie Berry from Berry Financial Services and Rex from Stacks Finance have let me use one of their offices in Horton Street to work on my business projects.
Of course, there are also my friends, young and old, who show support.
Some I’ve never seen, but they still know my name and offer support; it’s really cool. I don’t think you could ever get that genuine support in a city – that’s another reason I love Port Macquarie.
> What are some of your more recent highlights?
To be honest, it has been a bit quiet in terms of bodyboarding on a world scale anyhow. I got 3rd in the Pipeline contest in 2006, which was OK, but didn’t really win anything major in 2007.
I had a few semi finals, but nothing special. I kind of laid the foundations for my future; I got married to Leota in 2006 and we bought a house in 2007 and have been renovating.
I signed a 3 year deal with my sponsor and had my ears operated on for surfers’ ear, which meant I was out of the water for 3 months. I have also been working on a new business, which I hope to launch next year. I kind of get paid out for being a “has been”, but I don’t feel like that yet. I still feel fit and the fire to win is still more alive now than ever. I just needed to take time out to get things in order. Now that’s behind me, I have a real desire to win again – I haven’t felt that for a while.
> What events are coming up for you?
I’m competing on the world tour this year. There are 11 events; the tour has doubled since last year and the sport seems to be growing at a rapid rate. I don’t really get paid what I used to, so it will be harder for me to compete in all of the events.
I’d be psyched to give it another crack, but to do so I would have to compete in all the events. I’ll just have to do well in the ones I enter.
> You have done motivational talks in schools and coaching clinics. What do you enjoy most about helping others?
It’s just funny seeing them go, “Oh yeah, here we go. This guy is going to talk about a load of rubbish”. But by the end of it they’re milking you for more information, or trying to find out what they can do to better their situation. I actually don’t like doing them; I get too nervous. But I think the kids and even adults enjoy them … and that’s why I do them if I’m asked. Oh, and I get paid pretty well for it, as well.
> What message would you have for young bodyboarders who hope to pursue the sport at a competitive level?
I don’t want to sound like Tony Robins, “Mr. Banana Fingers”, but … you must be 110% committed; it won’t happen otherwise. You must be willing to do whatever it takes to win, which most of the time means sacrificing some of the fun things in life.
If you reach your goal, these sacrifices will be minor in comparison to the rewards you receive.
However, the biggest message is: enjoy the journey. That way, regardless of how far you get, you’ll always look back and be stoked with what you did with your life … because through the challenges, you had fun!
> Thank you for your time Damian and good luck.