Photo: Hammonds
Photo: Hammonds

In The Hot Seat: Damien Hobgood

Damo, on mentoring the next generation of up-and-coming groms

Damien Hobgood just returned from a 10-day stint in Indonesia, along with Kyuss King, Wyatt McHale, Jackson Bunch and Jett Schilling. It was the second time in three months Damo has brought a talented group of groms on a surf trip, to offer insight into everything from technique to board choice to wave selection, and so much more. In July, we'll launch an online feature and edit that details their trip, but in the meantime, we sat down with Damo to hear how this concept came to be.

This is the second trip you've done this year with a group of the world's best up-and-coming groms. What was the inspiration to make these trips happen?

Like with Camp Hobgood back in the day, I just tried to find a need, and [working with kids] is where my passions are right now. Being away from the Tour, I've definitely fallen back in love with surfing again. It took a little bit of time, but when it happened, it got me thinking: how can I give back, but also do something I'm passionate about? I'm good at forecasting, and picking good places to go, so I figured I could put a few trips together with a bunch of up-and-coming kids, and show them everything I know. That's basically what these trips are all about.

But unlike with Camp Hobgood back in the day, there aren't games or challenges on these trips, nor are there winners or losers. Instead, it's all about mentorship. How is it being received?

The kids are all so amazing. For awhile, I had people asking me about doing other coaching, even stuff back on Tour, but that just wasn't where my passion was. Mentoring these kids is where I felt I could have the most impact. And I've found out I enjoy it even more than I ever thought I would. A lot of times I'll sit on the beach and not even surf. I'll just watch them. I wouldn’t have been able to do that five years ago. And when it's big and I go out surfing, and I get them into a big one—I really feel like I can push their boundaries further than if I wasn’t there. I can help out with those mental hurdles. That's been really rewarding for me.

Jett [Schilling] said he never would have flipped around on that big one at Lakey Peak if you hadn't called him into it. That said, did you feel any nerves bringing the groms out when it was 8-feet and flexing? And then yelling at them to go?

For sure. You want to push the kids, but you don't want to break them. You don’t want them to regress, or have an experience that spooks them and hurts them in the long run. So I try to find that happy medium. But definitely on the way here, when the swells were picking up steam, I was stressing a little bit. I started thinking about a Plan B, and bringing the kids somewhere that wasn't so gnarly. But, in the end, it all worked out great. The kids charged way harder than I ever imagined they would. I think I was able to push them right to that edge and have them grow and learn that they can handle this stuff.

After every surf, you'd watch clips with the kids and give your insight into little tweaks they could implement immediately. And they'd often see results the very next session.

And that's why I try to bring them to a place like Indo, where they are gonna see so many different things, and expose their surfing to so many different waves. Because, look, I don't like wasting my time, and I don't like wasting theirs, so I wanted to put something together so that they would be able to learn so much in a week. When I was young, I came to Indo every year, and I know for a fact that it was the best thing I could have done — for my surfing, but also for a lot of the other things I learned just from being over here.

These trips are about more than just giving the kids advice on technique and what board to ride or not ride, right? You're also teaching them about respect, traveling with one another, media relationships, and all sorts of other stuff aspiring professionals should know.

Exactly. Sure, these kids are young, but there is a lot of expectation riding on their shoulders already, and they have a job to do. It's the best job in the world, but it's still a job. I just want to give them all of my knowledge, and show them how everything works, from A to Z. Open up the entire playbook.

Are you planning any more of these?

Totally. I really enjoy doing this. Hopefully the kids will want to keep on coming [Laughs].

[Featured Image: Photo by Hammonds]