Damien Hobgood on Black Death waves and the wipeout that nearly killed him

"Damien Hobgood acted like an animal. It was the most insane performance of talent and courage I’ve ever seen."

There are very few souls in the pro surfing game like Damien Hobgood.

I first met Damien Hobgood on one of my five Teahupoo campaigns at a homestay called Mama and Papa Teva. Along with his twin brother Cliff, Damien patiently and with good humour listened to my narrow-minded college-grad critiques of his religion.

Almost one decade ago, while filming for Strange Rumblings, Dion Agius and other Globe surfers including Creed McTaggart, sought out the circles of Greenbush in Sumatra, Indonesia. Greenbush is one of those waves where tuberiding to the death is preferable to opening the cat-flap or proning straight.

For surfers such as Craig Anderson and, in our case, Damien Hobgood, it is where their courage and their skills are most visible. I’d heard about Damien Hobgood’s solo session at 12-foot at Greenbush from Dion Agius and Creed McTaggart.

As I swooped on their drinks cabinet they mimicked what they believed had transpired. Giant drops beyond the vertical axis! Circles that were so big that even if a camera had been there it wouldn’t have been able to translate its enormity to pixels.

Damien, see, was in Bali and had heard the wave was going to be good and, short of partners, flew, drove and hopped a boat until he was sitting in the channel of an Indonesia version of Teahupoo, ready to surf solo. And solo he did. The following day, when the swell had dropped but was still a respectable, even horrifying, eight foot, Dion and Creed and the rest of the Globe gang arrived. And Damien, hardened from the previous day, owned it.

“Damo acted like an animal out there, like a man possessed. It was the most insane performance of talent and courage I’ve ever seen,” said Dion Agius. “He did not give one fuck and was getting bounced off the reef and bleeding everywhere and just kept charging.”

In this wide-ranging interview, Damien Hobgood talks hunting Black Death waves, the Teahupoo wave that nearly killed him and the true meaning of Christmas.


Stephanie Gilmore gone? Dry dem eyes.
Stephanie Gilmore gone? Dry dem eyes.

Rumor: Surf legend Stephanie Gilmore to follow greatest ever Carissa Moore into beautiful retirement

Alleged end of an era.

When history peers back at 2000s – 2024s will it see 12 x 2 years of the most important, best, professional surfing ever? Andy Irons three championships leading off. Stephanie Gilmore adding seven more. Kelly Slater posting six of his eleven in the aughts. Carissa Moore hoisting five though, really, six.

Legends, each and every one.

Time, as it does, marches on, though. Andy Irons’ legacy is cemented as he left this mortal coil in 2010. Kelly Slater, his onetime nemesis, is carrying on with pocket fake wildcards from here to eternity. Carissa Moore, days ago, retired classier than any surfer has, which leaves us Stephanie Gilmore.

The very classy Australian has surfed, professionally, since receiving a Roxy Pro Gold Coast wildcard in 2005 and went on to win and charm, win and charm, for nearly two decades.

Very fine rumor has it, though, that she, like Moore, is going to do the right thing and hang it up within weeks, if not days.

Does this make you feel things?

It should.

Discuss.


Lisa Andersen dumped by Roxy
Lisa Andersen, dumped by Roxy. Pottz no haps.

Women’s surf brand Roxy slammed by reclusive world champ Martin Potter for dumping company’s north star Lisa Andersen

“Pro surfing is dead. So sad,” says Pottz

Two significant movements in the surf world this morn with Lisa Andersen being exited from Roxy after thirty years and reclusive former WSL commentator and ’89 world champ Martin Potter breaking his five-year silence to rip into the company. 

Lisa Andersen, the almost fifty-five year old who became the face of Roxy in 1993 one year before her four-pack of world titles, posted a video where we see her peeling a Roxy sticker off her board. The caption reads, “All is good.” 

 

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A post shared by Lisa Andersen (@andersenlisa)

Well, all ain’t good. 

“As surf fans know, Roxy, along with Quiksilver, Billabong, RVCA et. al. was scooped up by licensing giant Authentic Brands Group a handful of months ago. Salaried positions were shredded, team riders cut, the very landscape changed,” Chas wrote two weeks ago after Kelia Moniz split from Roxy, her contract shredded.

In a long piece to camera Kelia gave hell to Roxy.

“After years of fighting for fair pay and equality there was no was I was signing that deal, especially knowing I wasn’t the only athlete that this was happening to. I’m not about to be strong-armed by some corporation that knows nothing about the sport and doesn’t give a shit about it. If you’re wondering why I’m leaving, it’s not because I don’t love what I do… I’m leaving because if I sign this deal I’d be setting the industry standards for the girls who look like me and surf like me and I simply want nothing to do with that. The surf industry has been consolidated by two large corporations who don’t care that there has been a dismantling of the monetary value of a whole generation and I refuse to be part of it because it looks pretty on a spreadsheet.”

Chas Smith subsequently said Quiksilver, Billabong, RVCA and Hurley should be studiously avoided, if not burned to the ground, as surfers pivot to surfer-owned brands like Florence Marine X, TCSS etc.

And, anyone wearing Quiksilver, Billabong etc, says Chas, should be “publicly shamed.”

Anyway, much the same sentiment from Martin Potter, the world champ turned grouchy WSL commentator, whom you’ll recall simply disappeared from our screens a few years ago without acknowledgment from his masters.

Among a roll call of surfing greats on Lisa Andersen’s post, Pottz stood out with the forthrightness that made him a beloved member of the WSL broadcast roster.

“I saw this coming years ago, why do you think I disappeared from something we helped build. Surfing or should I say pro surfing is dead. So sad.”

Between 1996 and 2006, Lisa Andersen’s golden years, Roxy grew from 20 mill to 650 mill in sales.

Some takeaways, as they’re called, here.

Is the exiting of Lisa Andersen from Roxy indeed proof the surf industry, as we all know it, is dead or a rational and logical shift away from paying absurdist salaries to surfers?

Should Lisa, you think, and like Mark Occhilupo, been given a lifelong stipend given it was Lisa Andersen who popularised the Boardshorts that Roxy built its brand upon?

And, long term, with their back stories erased, will Quiksilver, Billabong, RVCA, Hurley turn wild profits for a few years before disappearing into the sunset like Op, Golden Breed and Hang Ten?


Kelly Slater (pictured) and the graceful Carissa Moore.
Kelly Slater (pictured) and the graceful Carissa Moore.

All eyes on Kelly Slater after greatest ever surfer Carissa Moore gracefully retires!

"The brave and unselfish step of deciding not to stay at the party too long..."

It was roughly six years ago, now, when Kelly Slater shocked the world by announcing his second retirement from professional surfing. Australian great Joel Parkinson had just declared he would be stepping away from competition, after the 2018 season, when Slater gamely raised his hand and pulled straying eyeballs back his way with a quick “me too.”

The eleven-time world champion, of course, did not retire and here we are, days away from the 2024 World Surf League running and there we have Kelly Slater clutching his special season-long wildcard ready to give it all another go. The fifty-four-year-old’s longevity is, most definitely, eye widening, impressive, though is it seemly?

Five, though really six, time champion and Olympic gold medalist Carissa Moore brought tears to eyes, yesterday, when she announced her own retirement. The heartfelt “dear surfing” social media video was moving. The New York Times feature note perfect.

This time, Slater kept his hand down though straying eyeballs still rolled his way and especially after reading this passage lauding Moore:

Carissa possesses both the poise and confidence required to venture away from the tour at the top of her game, complete with a full tank of gas. By taking the brave and unselfish step of deciding not to stay at the party too long, Carissa refreshingly demonstrates just how much honor and respect she exhibits for her sport.

Sizzle.

But let’s real talk amongst ourselves. Has Slater selfishly “staying at the party too long” become a piece of performance art? Something odd and beautiful and altogether mesmerizing?

Or is it straight up macabre?

David Lee Scales and I, anyhow, discussed what will happen to the second greatest to ever do it as the Lexus Pro Pipe gets underway.

Your thoughts?

Here’s mine.


Carissa Moore retires
Carissa Moore in the NY Times.

Olympic Gold Medallist Carissa Moore explains shock retirement

"More than results, I want to be remembered for the performances that evoke emotion and that leave a mark."

Six years ago, I sat in a rented campervan parked in the driveway of a Ventura, California beach house.

Across the table sat Carissa Moore, then a three-time world champion. I was there to interview her for what became a cover story at Red Bull’s print magazine.

Late in the interview, I asked the kind of routine question that sometimes leads somewhere interesting, but just as often does not. “Where would you like to be in five years?” I asked.

Twenty-five at the time, Carissa Moore wasn’t sure what her life might look like five years in the future.

“I’ll be 30 then,” she said. “I would definitely like to be still surfing.”

She’d recently started her Moore Aloha non-profit for girls and imagined starting a family. “Maybe I’d take a year off and come back on Tour as a mom. It would be pretty cool if that’s even possible.”

Now 31, Carissa Moore is definitely still surfing. But what surfing looks like to her and how it fits into the broader patterns of her life is now set to change dramatically.

Early this morning in a wide-ranging interview published at the New York Times, Carissa Moore confirmed that she will end her competitive surfing career this summer.

The five-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist plans to surf the upcoming Lexus Pipe Pro and the 2024 Olympic Games. Then she will turn to new pursuits and to a life no longer counted out in 30-minute heats and measured in judges’ scores.

“All those wins, the competitive part that’s so much of my identity, I’m taking that away, and I’m facing myself this year,” Carissa told the New York Times. “And that’s scary. Like, who am I?”

 

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A post shared by Carissa Moore (@rissmoore10)

Born in Honolulu, Carissa learned to surf at Queens in the shadow of Diamondhead at the age of 5.

Each day, she walked past the statue of Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku on her way to surf.

When Carissa Moore was 10, her parents divorced and she divided her time between her two parents, only surfing with her dad Chris Moore.

Together Carissa and Chris, a ocean swimmer and body surfer built her career, which at times made for a fraught relationship between them.

By age 12, Carissa Moore had committed to surfing as a career and a singular ambition.

From the start, Carissa’s talent stood out. She brought a speed and progressive approach to her surfing that prompted comparisons to Kelly Slater and Dane Reynolds. Together with surfers like Malia Manuel, Coco Ho, and Lakey Peterson, Carissa brought a new approach to women’s surfing. “It went from a lot of you know, cutbacks and things like that, to blowing the tail,” says Jason Kenworthy, who directed the film, Leave A Message. “That was pretty instant.” Early clips of a teenaged Carissa show carving 360’s and tight, vertical turns.

Her competitive career took off with dizzying speed. While still in high school, Carissa qualified for the Championship Tour, and in her first year on Tour at age 17, she won two CT events and finished third overall. The following year in 2011, she won her first world title.

Behind the scenes, the stresses of her personal life and the weight of her own expectations led Carissa Moore to struggle with eating disorders. The culture of surfing at the time didn’t help with its emphasis on bikini babes and butt shots. It took time for Carissa to feel comfortable in her own skin and to find herself amidst the pressures of her fast-moving professional career.

Despite her inner turmoil, Carissa continued to push herself and her sport. Between 2011 and 2015, Carissa and Stephanie Gilmore traded world titles in a smiling, yet fierce rivalry. At times, they seemed to pull women’s surfing in opposite directions with Steph’s smooth grace standing in contrast with Carissa’s intensity, strength, and progression. Steph will now retain the upper hand in the world title count, but that was never the goal for Carissa. “I didn’t go into it thinking I wanted to win ten world titles,” Carissa told me back in 2018.

A four year gap between world titles tested Carissa’s determination.

She considered quitting competition, but believed she had more to give. In the meantime, her marriage to Luke Untermann in December 2017 brought a new stability to her life and with it a greater resilience. Even the most successful contest surfers lose more heats than they win. For a surfer as demanding of herself as Carissa, those losses have often hit hard. It’s taken much of her career to learn how to ride that rollercoaster while retaining her equilibrium.

“I have unconditional love,” she told me in 2022. “I’m going to go out there and I’m going to surf my hardest. I’m going to surf my heart out. And then I’m going to let it go. I just want to know that I put it all out there. That’s all I can ask of myself. And if I do that, I’ll be okay, regardless.”

As Carissa won two more world titles in 2019 and 2021, she continued to evolve her surfing. At Newcastle in 2021, she landed one of her first significant airs in competition. “That was a big one for me,” she said. “It’s definitely something I’ve been trying to work towards my whole career and I’ve done like little airs and stuff — but that one actually felt like it was a legit one.” When the World Surf League added Pipeline and Teahupo’o to the women’s schedule, Carissa pushed past her fears and put her full attention on her backside barrel surfing. Carissa has never been content to stand still.

“She’s always learning and evolving,” said Duncan Scott, who has coached Carissa over the years at J-Bay. “What’s incredible is that Carissa has five world titles and when you watch her surfing, it’s still evolving and you’re like, ‘shit, she’s still just getting started.’”

The highpoint of Carissa’s career came in 2021 when she won Olympic Gold and the world title in the same year. Ahead of the Olympics, she wondered how it could be bigger than winning a world title. “It definitely felt bigger because of the prestige of the Olympics and the Games,” she said. “It really does stand for something more than sport.” The experience also brought Carissa more in touch with her Hawaiian roots and affter winning Gold, she returned to Queens and hung her leis on the statue of Kahanamoku.

In the short run, Carissa still has three big contests ahead of her. She’ll compete at home in Hawai’i at Pipeline, where she won in small waves in 2023. Carissa has chipped away at Pipe, slowing building her skills. She’s taking off deeper and in bigger waves now and has, improved her body position in the barrel. Certainly, she’d love to go out with a win in good waves at Pipe in front of her friends and family.

Then it’s on to the fearsome Teahupo’o for the Olympic Games. In Tahiti, she’ll face strong competition from local girl Vahine Fierro. Few athletes get to choose their endings, but a second Olympic medal would be a beautiful end to Carissa’s competitive career.

To look only at her results is to sell Carissa short.

More than many athletes, she’s set out self-consciously and intentionally to serve as a role model to younger girls. Her Moore Aloha non-profit has grown to include clinics, essay contests, and international exchanges. During her early career, she did a photo session for the ESPN Body Issue, but later asked that the photos not be published. It wasn’t that she didn’t like them. In fact, she’s said that she felt beautiful in the images. It simply wasn’t the example she wanted to set.

“I know the kinds of values that I want to share with the next generation and I know the kinds of feelings that I want to leave with people,” she said. “And I’m always going to stay true to that.”

How Carissa Moore pieces together her life after competition remains an open question.

BeachGrit has confirmed that Carissa has a full-length film project in the works.

It’ll be a joy to see how her surfing unfolds outside the constraints of heats and judging criteria. There’s a whole world of waves out there for her to explore and to surf in her own way, purely as a form of self-expression. It will be exciting to see what that looks like. And, there’s that prediction she made six years ago about starting a family. Now at last, she’ll have the time for the rest of her life.

One thing’s for sure: Carissa Moore’s legacy in surfing is secure.

She readily stands among the best ever to do it and has shoved the boundaries of women’s surfing outward. And, along the way, she’s pushed herself, too. Somehow, Carissa has remained a uniquely human champion, which makes the whole thing all the more inspiring. She’s set a high bar for herself, and I’m not sure she’ll ever stop reaching higher, whatever she chooses to do with her next chapter.

“I think more than results, I want to be remembered for the performances that evoke emotion and that leave a mark,” she said. “I want someone to look back and be like, ‘Carissa was one of the women to push the level, to get above the lip, and to do things that were more creative. And, she surfed with this flair and this pizazz and with this style that is timeless.’”