For the first time in 13 years, Damien Hobgood found himself at home for the start of the World Tour season. Snapper Rocks was more than 7,000 miles away and he was staring down a major crossroad in his life. While other surfers might have sulked, Damien chose to find the silver lining in the situation and, from all accounts, is as happy as ever. Below, Damien discusses his new life away from the World Tour, his plans on returning, and his newfound love of big-wave surfing.
How has your life changed since leaving the World Tour?
I have a little more time on my hands now and I feel like I’m able to use it a lot more wisely. I was kind of tripping out on how productive you can be during the span of a World Tour event. You can get a whole lot done! During the Snapper comp, I was able to go on two separate surf trips and to Dubai. I’m not saying that as if it’s a bad or a good thing, just an observation on my part. I’ve been doing the Tour for so long, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a little more flexibility in my schedule. So it’s nice to be able to branch out. I’ve been trying to get a little more into big-wave surfing and I was able to paddle Jaws late last winter, which was an amazing experience. I’m really looking forward to surfing a lot more big waves. Surfing big waves makes me feel like a kid again.
Was it weird to see the season start at Snapper and not be there? You’d been on Tour for more than a decade, so that must have felt a little strange.
I wouldn’t say it was strange, but it was different. There were some emotions and feelings that I’m so used to having at the start of the season that weren’t there. As you lead up to the event, you get a lot of anticipation and to not feel that was a little weird. I don’t think most people realize just how consuming the World Tour can be. It takes over your life. Whether it’s training, traveling, or competing, it really consumes you. So to not have that responsibility to be at—and prepare for—every event is really different.
Are you following the events closely?
Normally, I love following the Tour and watching the webcast, but so far this season, I’ve only watched a few heats. It’s not that I haven’t been wanting to, it’s just that with the time difference and having kids, I just haven’t had the time. But I have been watching the highlight reels.
What’s your impression on all of the changes to the Tour this year?
I think it’s really good. I think ZoSea has done a really good job of adding a lot of professionalism to the Tour. There are a few kinks here and there, and that’s going to happen anytime you have a transition, but for the most part I think that it’s really good. I think it’s just gonna get better as time goes on. As someone that was on the Tour for a while, that’s a good feeling for me to see progress.
Are you planning on trying to requalify?
Yeah, it would be great to requalify and get back on the Tour. I’m doing all of the 6-Star PRIMES this year—there are only six—so that’s the path I’m taking to requalification. Just doing the big events.
I know that while the World Tour has seen a lot of growth, the ’QS has taken a bit of a beating with a lot of events cut or bumped to WT level. What’s your take on that?
Yeah, that’s definitely happened, but I think it’s something that will be remedied in the future. I think at first, they were really working on revamping the World Tour—and they’ve done that. I think next the ASP will be working to strengthen the ’QS and then the Pro Junior series. But for me, with the way the ’QS is currently set up with six PRIMES, it’s worked out pretty well because it’s a pretty small amount of time out of my year to try and requalify.
You recently dropped an edit that showed you traveling up and down the California coast. Are you planning on going down that road and releasing more edits in the future?
We had some footage of me from Southern California and Ocean Beach. We put that little edit together and sent it out to my sponsors to use if they wanted, and then the media picked up on it. I wasn’t planning on doing a lot of edits, but the response was pretty positive so it made me rethink it a little bit. I’m not going to be just trying to get clips or anything. But when we have enough good footage that we can put together something, I’d be stoked to release something else.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hanging with the next generation of surfers and being a mentor to them, being someone that they can hopefully learn from. I’ll be focusing more on becoming a better big-wave surfer as well. Aside from that, I always want to spend as much time as I can with my family. My two kids are 4 and 7 now and they really like hanging out with me. I know that stage doesn’t last forever, so I’m making the most of it while it does.