Damien Hardman – Biography
Damien Hardman was just that: a “hard man” to outsmart and a “hard man” to beat. Kelly Slater, Tom Carroll, Gary Elkerton, Tom Curren, and an endless list of phenomenal surfing talents ended up on the point of Hardman’s sword during the 80’s and 90’s. Winning two world titles in a time when the ASP schedule was more sweat shop than dream tour, “Dooma” proved without argument that he was the best professional surfer in the world; however, the Aussie goofy foot never garnered the full respect given other champs. While his small wave precision and tactical genius may have proved a political liability, those same traits made him the most dangerous surfer in competitive surfing.
Damien Hardman was born on January 23, 1966 in Sydney, Australia. His father Brian Hardman would go on to become the pro tour’s media director years later during his son’s reign, but long before that, Damien began as a wee lad surfing at age 10 at Warriewood Beach. He later moved with his family to Narrabeen, an area notorious for its deep pool of talented surfers like Terry Fitzgerald and Simon Anderson as well as for its colorful culture. Nick Carroll described life in “Narry” as “Beer, fishing, a game of pool with your mates, and surfing Northy until you can’t move.” It proved fertile ground for Hardman who, by 13, was competing regularly and winning contests, joining famed surfboard shaper Geoff McCoy’s team that included world tour runner-up Cheyne Horan.
Hardman’s surfing developed quickly as did his appetite for winning. His steely calm under pressure and intense focus earned him the nickname “Iceman,” and he was soon a feared competitor. In 1982, Hardman finished 3rd as a junior at the Australian National Titles and two years later again won the Nationals as well as the World Championship contest. The same year, he competed in only a portion of the pro tour events and still finished the year ranked #36.
The following year, Damien Hardman jumped on tour full-time and powered all the way to #17, earning him 1985 Rookie of the a Year status. He moved up 11 slots the next year, and then sealed the deal in 1987 when at 21 years old, going head to head with fellow Aussie and notorious power surfer Gary “Kong” Elkerton at Manly Beach, Damien Hardman took the heat and the ‘87 title during a year stacked to the rim with legendary talent including Tom Curren, Mark Ochilupo, Tom Carroll, and Martin Potter. After the event, Elkerton angrily skipped the awards ceremony while Hardman, with a nod to the Narry boys, gushed, “I’m looking forward to a nice cold beer.”
The following year, he won seven events in a single season, a record that would stand until it was matched by Tom Curren and later Kelly Slater. For the next 3 years, he finished in the top 5 before winning a second title in 1991. The next year Hardman finished 2nd to Kelly Slater, and his ratings fluctuated near the top of the pack until he finally retired in 2001.
All told Damien Hardman took 19 total tour wins and was inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame in 1999. He performed consistently in venues across the globe, laying down his signature laser sharp vertical attack to win two world titles. But strangely, the media and the non-Australian public seemed unmoved. In fact, he never broke the top five of the Surfer Poll. Hardman seemingly had a public relations problem. His short hair, mechanical precision, and cut-throat tactical contest strategy may have distanced him from surfing’s traditional sentimental persona while others thought Hardman fell short when conditions got heavy, a crucial liability for any world champ. The bottom line: Damien Hardman surfed with power and precision, was revered as the most feared surfer on tour, and always knew exactly who he was. Today, the former champ is married with 3 children and is still involved in surfing as a contest director.