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Port Macquarie’s three-time world champion Damian King on life after pro bodyboarding



It is a clear winter’s day and as waves roll in at a popular Port Macquarie break, Damian King appears happy and relaxed.

The three-time world bodyboard champion says it’s a place where he spent much of his youth.

“I used to come down here from sun up to sun down and I’d just live on the headland, so it’s always been a huge part of my life,” he said.

King has influenced a generation of bodyboarders and although he’s retired from professional bodyboarding, he still inspires others and hits the waves every chance he can.

“It’s really pure — I love that you can get in the water, have fun and push yourself … it’s an escape, I can relax,” he said.

“It’s still probably the biggest part of my life, it’s right up there with my family, and obviously work, but it feels like if I couldn’t do that [surf] I wouldn’t operate.”

‘Bittersweet’ rise to world glory

Damian King at Port Macquarie’s Town Beach where he spent much of his youth.(ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian)

King rose to success from humble beginnings and it was the death of his mother which motivated him to claim his first world bodyboarding championship in 2003.

“It was bittersweet for me,” he said.

A bodyboarder on a huge wave, in the barrel of the wave with white water exploding behind him.
Damian King attacks big wave surfing.(Supplied: Damian King)

“I trained from sun up to sun down and at the first event in Tahiti I took my Mum’s ashes over and ended up winning it.

“I kept that going the whole year and eventually nailed it and won Pipeline.

A plaque in the shape of a bodyboard saying "Port Macquarie-Bodyboard Capital of Australia:.
Port Macquarie is hailed as the ‘Bodyboarding Capital of Australia’.(ABC News: Emma Siossian)

King won the world title again in 2004 and then in 2011 claimed the Dropknee World Tour, retiring from professional bodyboarding in 2013.

“I was pretty exhausted — it took a lot out of me doing that for so many years and a lot of stress too,” he said.

“Let’s face it, the only position you want to get is first, even second you think, ‘I should have done that to win it’ … so you put yourself through a lot to get to the top spot.

“I’d had my daughter too, and with surfing and with my career I always tried to push it pretty hard in big waves.

‘I get just as scared as the next person’

A man on a bodyboard dropping down the face of a huge wave.
Damian King, captured here in Tahiti, says big wave surfing requires total commitment.(Supplied: Damian King)

King still loves riding challenging waves.

“The biggest surf I have probably been in was that session in Fiji in 2011, it was like a one-in-20-year swell, it was terrifying to be honest,” he said.

A bodyboarder surfing a huge wave, which is curling over him.
Damian King making the drop — he says it is great to challenge yourself but you also need to know your limits.(Supplied: Damian King)

These days though he tries to avoid life threatening conditions.

King also enjoys competing in the invitational Shark Island Challenge at Cronulla in Sydney.

“Basically there’s a rock shelf out in the middle of Cronulla … it’s a really heavy and kind of dangerous wave but a really good quality wave as well,” he said.

“It always blows the cobwebs out and makes me feel alive again.”

‘The Joker’ finds a new niche

A man in a full wetsuit stands in the surf with his arms around his two young daughters.
Damian King loves sharing his love of the waves with his daughters.(Supplied: Damian King)

Known in bodyboarding circles as ‘The Joker’, King remains down-to-earth, ready for a chat and a laugh with the many locals who know him.

It has served him well in his new real estate career.

“It’s been a really good fit for me because I didn’t want to keep beating my body around doing a trade or anything, as I copped a bit of a bashing over the last 15–20 years bodyboarding,” he said.

“I love Port Macquarie and don’t mind talking to people as well — as you can probably imagine [laughs] — so it’s really good.”

Sharing his passion

A man in board shorts walks smiling down a dirt road on a tropical island carrying flippers and a bodyboard.
Damian King says he loves travel and surfing at different breaks around Australia and the world.(Supplied: Damian King)

When he is not working, King loves sharing bodyboarding with his family.

“I love taking my daughters out,” he said.

A man in a wetsuit sitting on a scooter, with two young girls in front of him, carrying bodyboards under his arm.
Damian King says surfing is all about enjoying the ocean.(Supplied: Damian King)

“I have a four-month-old, a five-year-old and a 10-year-old … my four-month-old is a bit young, [laughs] we will get her out soon though.”

For King surfing is a way of life.

“It’s a real game changer for your life I believe … you go to places and enjoy the environment and the people and the waves.”

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