Not so long ago, Danny Hampson was wakeskating’s first child prodigy. In the company of experienced wakers like Thomas Horrell, Danny helped to mold the burgeoning sport as a spry 15 year old. Sometimes hard to tame in daily life, on his wakeskate he rode like an old pro — controlled, fluid, determined. As with anyone who grows up in the public eye, Danny always seemed much older.
At times, the years have been hard on Danny Hampson. Whether it was a string of rough nights, tough times for the team he was part of, or you know, being thrown from a boat, it hasn’t always been easy. But now, with a renewed interest in wakeskating, and life in general, Danny has made the big move to Orlando, and is definitely not intending to waste away in Margaritaville anytime soon.
AW: How are things going? Anything new and exciting in your life?
DH: No, not really. The trip around the world was pretty exciting. I think it gave me a lot better attitude on stuff. I think I’m happier than I’ve been in a really long time, so that’s exciting.
AW: Cool. Tell me about this trip around the world.
DH: Well, first we went to South Africa with team Oakley, working on the Push Process film. It was me and Jack and Rathy and Andrew Adkison. That was pretty fun. Africa is pretty awesome and the people are all really nice that we stayed with. A lot of the people there are sick and stuff, so that was definitely sad. We went straight from there to New Zealand for like, a really long time. That was awesome; those Red Bull guys are like the coolest guys ever. We had a really, really good time traveling across the country, up and back, it was pretty unreal. It was like the whole crew, the band was back to together.
AW: The band? I assume you are talking about the Cassette team?
DH: Yeah, it was all of us.
AW: Speaking of the good old days. It seems like a lot of people are still hoping Cassette will make a comeback. What do you think the chances of that are?
DH: I don’t know. I think it could definitely happen, if like all things fall into place it could happen, for sure. I mean, Liquid Force has been really nice to me and everything, but it would be cool if we could get the Cassette thing rolling again as well.
AW: Are you still good friends with Thomas? What is he up to?
DH: Yeah, Thomas is still one of my best friends. I talk to him a couple times a week. Nothing’s changed with me and Thomas since all the business stuff. We’re still really, really close. He’s living in Miami. He works at a really crazy club that all the celebrities go to. He’s probably going to run for mayor of Miami next year. Ha. He’s doing pretty good.
AW: What do you miss most about the glory days of Cassette?
DH: There’s so much. Working on Sfumato was just so fun. That’s what’s been so fun about the past few months. Getting new footage for this N.A.R.L.A. movie, the DVS movie, it’s just been so fun. It’s just the same energy. For some reason I always ride my best when I’m with Thomas and all those guys. Of course, me and Reed ride together like every day anyway, but with all of us together for some reason everything just clicks. We’re all such good friends; we know each other a little too well sometimes. But it’s really fun; you don’t have to worry about anything. It’s just you and your friends hanging out. That’s how I felt riding with my friends down in the Keys too. It’s just your friends so they don’t care. We had the best times ever for so long, and we’re still having the best times. We’re still all the same we’ve always been.
AW: You were really young back then though. Now that you are older and wiser, would you have done anything differently?
DH: No. I’ve definitely grown up. I’ve honestly felt like I’ve grown up a lot in the past 3-4 months, because I always felt like I grew up really fast and stuff. I think now I’m almost catching up to myself. I think I’m a lot more mature about a lot of stuff. I was just really young for a really long time. I still am really young, but I just feel like I understand myself a little more. I don’t regret anything. It was fun and we did good too. I think we did a lot of good for the sport back then. I just wish I would have maybe appreciated it more when it was happening and I wish I would have kept riding a lot. But I’m back now!
AW: Yeah, I’m sure your gnarly accident last year helped you grow up to. Can you tell me a little bit about your boating accident and your recovery?
DH: I’m almost all the way better now. It’s gonna’ be a year pretty soon. The accident was bad but it was actually good for me in a lot of ways because it made me realize a lot of stuff about people around me. I realized who my real friends were and how cool my family was and how cool my little brother was. My girlfriend now, we started dating pretty much the day I got hurt, and she’s been there for me. I didn’t realize who the real people in my life were. It took me a long time to get back into the swing of wakeskating because my confidence was all screwed up forever. I think I really just got my confidence clicking again when I was in New Zealand actually. I feel like I can actually ride. I was kind of psyching myself out on everything. That’s the worst thing it’s done to me. Health wise I feel pretty good. My neck still hurts kind of a lot sometimes but it was just mostly just confidence. My confidence was off with a lot of things, not just wakeskating and skateboarding, but pretty much everything.
AW: When you were laid up, did you think you would be able to get back to wakeskating at the level you were before?
DH: I didn’t really know for a while. I recovered really quickly from my accident, but for the first couple weeks after it happened I was really, really f-ed up. My arm was paralyzed cause I hurt this bracheoplexus nerve thing in my arm, so I couldn’t even lift my arm over my head and I couldn’t feed myself for like a week. And that was after I got out of the hospital, too. So I didn’t really know if I was going to be able to wakeskate again. Honestly at that point I didn’t really care because I was just happy I could walk. Then after a while of being laid up I couldn’t wait just to skateboard and wakeskate again. I’ve never been as motivated to ride and do stuff as I am right now, and I think it’s because I got hurt. I just really want to live it up every day, no matter what, just have fun.
AW: How do you feel riding now? Have you learned any new tricks lately?
DH: Yeah, I’ve actually been learning a lot of new tricks. I’m progressing again finally. I’m trying a lot of wake-to-wake stuff lately. I never really jumped the wake too hot before. I’m learning some stuff, finally being able to jump the wake toeside and that kind of cool stuff. I’ve been riding with Reed and he’s been helping me out a lot with that stuff. Just riding with him is really good. He’s really good at helping you learn stuff.
AW: What made you decide to move up to Orlando? Has that helped your riding at all?
DH: I just kind of felt like I had to. I graduated from high school and all my best friends from the Keys moved to Orlando, too. It was just kind of a no-brainer. We always planned to move to Orlando, so that’s what we did.
AW: Are you still going to school?
DH: I went to Valencia Community College for a semester. It worked out great, I got good grades. I was actually taking online school this semester but this crazy trip came up and I was gone for like a month. I just couldn’t really do it because I don’t have Internet connection sometimes. I might go back to school next semester. My girlfriend will be in school then at Valencia. I don’t know what I’m gonna do yet.
AW: So, who’s the new lady in your life?
DH: Her name is Elizabeth Dixon. She’s real great. She’s really been helping me out. She’s really got me in line actually and she makes me do good. She actually kind of motivates me to go wakeskating and stuff. It’s pretty neat.
AW: Sounds romantic. So do you miss Margartiaville?
DH: That’s the thing. I’m in the Keys pretty much more than I’m in Orlando. I just travel a lot. I just come home straight to the Keys because my family’s there and my girlfriend. She’s a year younger than me so she’s still finishing high school. I go down there honestly more than I am in Orlando. But yeah, I miss it a lot.
AW: So you are pretty much on the road all the time? Are you ever actually in Orlando?
DH: I haven’t been there too much lately. I think in the next couple months I’ll be there a lot though and I’m excited about that. It’s good to be there and hang out with Aaron and go ride all the time. I go ride with Scott and George sometimes too, so it’s definitely pretty fun.
AW: Living in Orlando, you are definitely a lot closer to the heart of the wakeskate scene. What do you think about the “scene?” Is there anything you’d like to change?
DH: Honestly I really am not too much of a scenester. I’m not really into the scene too much, but I think the scene’s all right. It’s pretty fun and it’s gotten way better. All those young kids now are doing really good stuff. Like Nick Taylor is doing really great s*** and the kids that have been coming up are actually wakeskating really well. It’s different from how it used to be, they kind of wakeskate the way I always wanted people to wakeskate, especially Nick. Everyone’s pretty nice and it seems like everyone’s getting along pretty well. I don’t hang out with too many people though.
AW: So you think wakeskating is going in the right direction? What do you think it will take to bring it to the next step?
DH: I think it’s going pretty good right now. I really don’t know. I think this N.A.R.L.A. video is gonna be pretty good. It’s going to show a lot of the stuff we like to do and the way we like to wakeskate. Really skateboard influenced stuff. I think that all it’s going to take it just to do real, real skate-influenced stuff and stuff that looks like it’s fun. I don’t know what it takes to get to the next step, but I think it’s going pretty well right now. People are kind of paying attention and doing it good now, so it’s pretty fun.