Signing off

Photo: JP Slupik

Excerpt from an interview originally published in Riptide Magazine

Australia’s most successful bodyboarder exits the building.

The road in to Port Macquarie, some 390km north of Sydney, is dotted with nautically themed businesses with names like Whalebone Wharf and The Big Oyster. Flanked by the Hastings River, the road meanders into town past caryards and cheap holiday parks. Where it meets the sea you’ll find a wave that has arguably produced more world-class bodyboarders than any other beach on Earth.

What can’t be argued is that local Damian King is Australia’s most successful bodyboarder. Ryan Hardy and Mitch Rawlins have spawned more copycats over a generation, sure, and Ben Player has gone on to equal Kingy’s two prone World Titles. But whatever your thoughts on the credibility of the Dropknee World Tour, the fact Kingy has his name on that winner’s plaque too renders him, at least on paper, our nation’s best-ever bodyboarder.

And so, I find myself a six-hour drive from the Gold Coast, parked by the side of Kingy’s corner-block two-storey home, bottle of wine in hand, the smell of barbecue fresh in the air.

Three weeks earlier Kingy had sent a brief email out to editors and industry figures with the title “Last International Event for Damian King”, telling us his contract hadn’t been re-signed and that he was done chasing the World Tour. “Thanks for having me, it’s been fun!” the 35-year-old signed off. Done. Just like that. No more Kingy. And the kicker? He was moving on to a full-time gig in real estate. Shocked, I told him I’d drive down for a proper chat when he got back from Hawaii, where he’d go on to launch one of the moves of the contest – a loopy air forward off a Pipe end bowl – and blitz through to the semis.

“How about that semi,” Kingy says, grinning and shaking his head and winged-ears after we’ve exchanged pleasantries in his back yard. There’s a beer in his hand, a pair of barbecue tongs in the other and he’s barefoot on his lush, trimmed grass. “Did you see it? I think I got like a combined score of 3.3 or something. Dismal. I was thinking towards the end if I just got a half-decent one I was gonna go for the old double-spin into the barrel and if I got that I might’ve been able to quickly paddle back out and do a little flip on a smaller one… but it didn’t happen,” he says, pensive.

The following conversation takes place, not during Kingy’s barbecue, but the following morning at the Milkbar café in the heart of Port, less than a click from the famed brown swells that forged his career. His inquisitive, curly haired daughter, Sienna, now two-and-a-half and a key player in this tale, sits on his lap eating scrambled eggs.

Riptide: Tell me about what led you to write that email a few weeks back?
Kingy: I was always gonna retire at the end of this year no matter what. I was amped and I wanted to have a final, good crack at it. But I guess when you lose a sponsor and the tour’s so expensive, you’ve got to call a spade a spade. They [Turbo] didn’t even make me an offer, but it’s hard you know? I don’t know how they’re going financially. They basically said they’ve got no money for it and I guess they re-signed [Jared] Houston. I sent the feelers out with a few other board brands and I didn’t get an offer. I’m not that spewing about it – it is what it is – but I know for a fact my boards sell all over the world.