Here’s How 2 x World Champion Damien Hardman Got His Name
What I know about…
Knowing when to retire… My last event was the Quiksilver Pro at Cloudbreak in 2000, the year Luke Egan won. I started in 1985 and I had two years out of the top ten. I remember Bainy sent me a message saying, “Don’t do it. You’re mad if you do ‘cause you’re a long time from being retired.” I was holding my own at the time, ninth in the world and still beating most of the guys. I quit halfway through the year and Andy Irons took my spot. Physically I felt like I could have done it for another two years, but I finished at the right time. I always planned to try and finish at the top.
Adjusting to the real world… The hardest part is working out what it is you really want to do. I finished school and went straight on the tour for 15 years and I didn’t have a trade or any qualifications. It was learn on the run, use the life skills you have and try and figure it all out. It wasn’t so much having to adjust to having to work, because I’d always dabbled in business when I was on the tour, with surf shops… pie shops, all sorts of obscure things. I know some guys have trouble adjusting to actually having to work, to get up and go to a job.
The tour in the 90s… It was full on, pretty much back to back events every week. It was awesome. I think I was lucky doing the tour when I did it, we were consistently competing at a high level, week in week out. The competition was super serious, probably more competitive than it is today. It seems these days that everyone are friends first, competitors second. Back then we we’re definitely competitors first and friends fifth.
Being the ice man… I was pretty calculating. To me it was almost like a game of chess. The announcers read out the scores so you know what you needed to win the heat. You just had to figure out a way of getting it. Whether that meant two fives or two eights, I just felt there was always a way of doing it. There was no point in panicking, because if the waves didn’t come there was nothing I could do. I used to be able to look at a wave and know its scoring potential. I guess I got the “ice man” name because I didn’t panic and I won a lot of heats right at the death. I’d need a score and I’d get it.
Having kids… It’s been unreal having kids and it was good having our kids at a young age. The girls are 21 and 20 now and I feel like I can communicate with them and am on the same wavelength. As far as boyfriends go I’ve been all right, I’m not too scary – none have fled the house yet. I’d hate to be my age and having kids now. When you’re young you can do whatever you want with your kids but when you’re older you get a bit slower and grumpier.
Having a son who’s a frothing grommet… Pat’s 12 now and is starting to surf pretty well. We just booked a trip to the Mentawais, for next year. He’s at the stage now where he’s ready for that. He’s competing in some junior events, not all of them. I’m trying to steer him towards more of the fun ones like the BL Blastoff. I don’t care if he competes, if anything I’m holding him back. For me it was always about having fun first and competition second. I reckon that’s really important. It’s scary seeing how serious some parents are at those junior events. Really pushing their kids, whinging about scores – it is as bad as soccer or football.
Staying surf stoked… It’s great having a kid who surfs and is super keen. Pat gets me out there on days when I normally wouldn’t surf. Overall I’m pretty healthy and I feel really good now that I’ve had a hip replacement, it deadset feels new and I can surf three times a day where six months ago I couldn’t walk to the beach. I’m as keen now as when I was 18.
Legacy… I may be regarded as a small wave surfer, probably because I never won in Hawaii. I made the Pipe Masters final twice and had a few good results at Sunset in solid surf, but I never won in Hawaii. I don’t really ever think about my legacy, but people still come up to me and say I think you were way better than you got credit for, but you know, it is what it is. I never stood out or made a song and dance with the media. I just did my own thing, was pretty reserved and pretty quiet. I thought I’d let my surfing do the talking. As far as competition went, my results did the talking.
Narrabeen… Narrabeen’s helped shape me as a person and a surfer. As a surfer I always felt I could surf good waves better than I surf bad waves. Compared to most beaches Narrabeen has more good waves than bad. Also there’ve always been so many good surfers and that pushes you and it’s competitive. Narrabeen is always going to be a beach that throws out one or two good guys each generation who go on to compete on the tour. As a person, Narrabeen was always a leveler. There’s no way you’d get away with getting a big head at Narrabeen.
Success… Common sense has a lot to do with whatever you do in life. When I got into retail it was common sense to do the research, know what you are getting into and having an understanding of the basics. In essence being a pro surfer is like running a business and the competitive aspect is an asset. To be reasonably successful, not just in sport, but any walk of life, you have to be competitive. No one gives it to you on plate.