2008 Rider of the Year: Danny Hampson
Back in 2007 I had the pleasure of traveling with Danny Hampson to South Africa for the filming of Push Process. This was around the time Danny was just getting back into the groove of riding following his life altering injury. All of us on the trip thought Danny was riding really well at the time and we were stoked just to see him back on the water, knowing full well that had things gone just a fraction of a bit different, he probably wouldn’t even be walking. Danny, however, wasn’t too stoked on the way he’d been riding. At the end of one day, Danny was the last to ride, and as we pulled up to the dock and cleaned out the boat, Danny sat at the edge looking out at the river. It was apparent he was upset and wanted some time alone, so rather than sit down and talk to him, Jack Blodgett, Andrew Adkison and myself headed back up to the house. A few minutes later Danny walked in and in typical Danny fashion asked me, “Did you see me crying down there?”
“That’s hunger,” he replied.
While in that moment it seemed a little funny and Danny and I both laughed, it also said a lot about who Danny really is and what wakeskating really means to him. Danny LOVES wakeskating, to the point that the thought of not being able to do it as well as he had before and the thought that that might make him look like a failure in the eyes of others, drove him to tears.
Later on Danny and I would talk about what he was going though. What a lot of people probably don’t realize is just how hard it is to come back from a severe injury, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well. Danny had obviously left some very big shoes to fill when he got injured, and during the time he was out, a lot of kids filled them. It was apparent during our time together in South Africa that Danny wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to get to the spot he was once at. It’s one thing when you want to be able to do something, but when you physically can’t, the emotional toll can be just as taxing as the physical one, especially when it’s something as important and defining to you as wakeskating is to Danny.
Fast forward 18 months and it is more than obvious that Danny was able to overcome both the physical and emotional scars from his injury. Danny isn’t just back on the scene and riding well, he’s back to where he was before he got hurt: setting trends, having fun, commanding attention in the most subtle way possible and riding with a style that most others can only dream about having. Sure, there are a lot of other wakeskaters who can do a lot more “tech” moves than Danny, or who have won more contests than Danny. But that’s not really what this magazine or the Rider of the Year award is about. Try to name one rider who can do tricks the way Danny does them and with the passion and love Danny carries with him, and then you’ve got an argument. There are a lot of riders, who, if they left the sport of wakeskating, wouldn’t necessarily be missed. The show, as they say, would go on. There are a few riders, though, who if they left wakeskating, could never be replaced. Danny Hampson is one of those few, and what he has accomplished in 2008 is more than deserving of the Alliance Rider of the Year honors.
– Garrett Cortese
Earlier this year, Alliance put on one of its random, pointless contests in the form of the Aaron Reed Poke Off. One of the riders in attendance was Danny Hampson, but he hadn’t actually come to compete. Danny was feeling a bit under the weather, and just wanted to come out, watch and support the rest of the riders. That’s just the kind of guy he is. After nearly everyone had ridden, Danny stood up and announced he was going to ride. Admittedly, watching a bunch of straight wake jumps wasn’t stoking most people out, and the morale at this point was somewhat low. But within a few seconds of Danny taking to the water, everyone was laughing, clapping and smiling.
Here at Alliance we all agree the Rider of the Year isn’t the guy who did the gnarliest trick, or won the most contests. It is the rider who makes everyone else want to get out there and do it too. This year, that rider was Danny Hampson. Danny is just one of those riders who is fun to watch. He’s always moving, interacting with the people on the boat and riding with such a cool style. Mostly, he is just having so much fun.
This year Danny managed to put together some of the best wakeskate video segments in Oakley’s Push Process and Volume Issue 7. At the first Toe Jam of 2008, he qualified with the best run of the entire weekend, including the first bigger spin off an incline ever in competition. Wherever he went, if Danny was riding, everyone else was paying attention.
2008 was a great year for wake sports, and many riders deserve recognition. But when all was said and done, Danny Hampson is the rider who stood out, time and time again, and truly made us want to go ride.
– Brooke Geery
If there is one person who is truly deserving of this award, it is Dan. To me, the ROTY is not only a kick ass rider, but someone who shows more passion and dedication than anyone else, as well. Dan may not always show it, but he lives for the wake. And that’s not to say that he only loves wakeskating. Danny’s passion for being on the water knows no boundaries. I believe it’s called unconditional love, and Dan’s full of it. An unconditional love for the wake. Take for instance the last time we were at TSR. I’ve never seen anyone so excited to land an air roll (yes, on a wakeboard). He even called his parents to tell them.
I could write about Dan’s hardships and perseverance in the face of injury, but you already know the story (if not, check his interview a few issues back). I could write about his insane video performance in Push Process, only to be topped with more insanity in Volume Issue Seven. I could even write about all of the incredible things I have witnessed Dan do on a wakeskate in the past year, and believe me, they are numerous, but instead I want to write about who Dan Hampson is to me. A person who puts so much of himself into everything he touches, personally and professionally. Dan calls some of the greats in our sport his dear friends, and there is a reason for that. Scott Byerly, Thomas Horrell, Josh Letchworth, the list goes on. Dan is one of the easiest people to get along with, while at the same time being one of the most complex individuals I have ever met. His goal in life is happiness, but unselfishly. Dan not only wishes happiness for everyone he knows, he actually tries his best to make it happen. I’m sure this sap story isn’t what you want to hear in this article, but too bad. The truth is, everyone knows he is the best, and he deserves this award, so I don’t really need to say it again. What I do need to say is this: Congratulations Danny. This is well deserved and a long time coming. I am so proud of my best friend of seven years. Keep kicking ass, and try not to stress. I love you!
– Aaron Reed (2003 ROTY)
The heart of Bruce Springsteen, the mind of Ernest Hemmingway and the looks of Patrick Swayze; Danny Hampson is an old soul that I can only be humbly fortunate to have crossed paths with.
I can remember the day very clearly when he so innocently stepped out of his parent’s car and was proverbially “handed over” to a group of people that would change his life forever. I was with the Cassette team down in Miami filming for Sfumato and he spent the day with us proving that the line he chose to follow on and off the water was dramatic, but most importantly, a perfect fit. He was everything the sport of wakeskating needed.
I learned how immediately disarming his personality was at the moment I met him, but have realized that it could very easily take a lifetime to truly experience his many facets. Over the past seven years, the camera and wakeskate have brought us together countless times and the pictures are just one small piece of magic that we walk away with after every experience. Much like brothers, we’ve laughed, cried and questioned life’s mysteries. And much like friends, we’ve shared our interests like fishing, skating, music and being one with the water.
I couldn’t be more proud of my good friend who deserves this recognition more than most people probably know. To the man who most vigorously and vulnerably follows his heart, I send my utmost love and respect… Congrats Danny.
— Josh Letchworth
The art of biography is roughly 90% research and 10% speculation. And since I’ve been a little removed from the day-to-day workings of Danny Hampson for the past year, let’s start with the latter.
First, let it be known that a hyper-aggressive and multi-tiered Myspace marketing campaign appears capable of launching a person to great heights – President, pop-star, Miley Cyrus’ personal assistant, or even the Alliance Rider of the Year. Of course I’m sure that’s not something I need to tell YOU, one of the 29 billion Myspace friends of IMB Dan. It seems that little ploy worked even better than Joe Camel getting kids addicted to cigarettes.
Also, don’t underestimate a timely show of raw emotion. I’ve often wondered how great actors could summon up the waterworks at a moment’s notice. A friend of mine tells me that it’s because out of frame, they are rigorously pinching their inner thighs or other tender areas of their bodies to evoke the tears. If Danny were an actor (which is not entirely out of the question post-wakeskating – don’t be surprised if he reinvents himself as a male Juno or even some sort of emo-redneck action hero), he wouldn’t need the tricks. That kid can break down equally in fits of exaltation or exhaustion. It’s unnervingly human, uncomfortably endearing and, of course, adds that little extra punch to his legacy.
While I joke (in humor; truth), that legacy has been apparent to most people who have followed wakeskating for almost six years now. It was launched with some small suggestions of his brilliance in a movie called Sfumato, and has landed in two unparalleled sections this year in Push Process and Volume. And along the way there has always been much said of his style, his talent and his tortured artist aura. But make no mistake, this coronation as the 2008 Rider of the Year is all about the first word in that title … RIDER. Or for that matter, any iteration of the term – ride, riding, etc. That’s what the past 12 months have been all about for Danny, particularly in the wake of his almost life-ending and certainly career-threatening injury after a boat accident in 2007. And so came the ensuing exhilaration of making new friends and embracing each day, and breathing in things so deeply that they make your lungs ache and your eyes water. Not to mention an entirely new fire for jumping on board and taking the ride, literally.
In wakeboarding and wakeskating, I’ve always believed that the beginners had it way better than the pros. Despite all the advantages, it’s human nature to sink into complacency the more you do something and the easier it comes to you – work, relationships, school, etc. But beginners haven’t worn thin on either wonderment or dedication. They still have the visible shine of not being able to make it through a day without a good ride, and the tunnel vision to make it happen. Danny has found both again.
I haven’t done all the research, but it’s not really needed. The thing I’ve always known about Danny’s inevitable receipt of the Rider of the Year award is this: if it has to do with riding, he’s done it, is doing it, or will do it. And he’ll do it with the talent, grace, emotion, tears, laughter, smiles, danger, determination and fun that it was meant to be done with by us all, beginner or pro. Danny getting voted Rider of the Year is validation to everyone who has ever called themselves a rider – each of the many highs and occasional lows. It’s just that he feels them a little more than the rest of us, and it shows.
-– Tony Smith
Danny Hampson is hands-down the most talented person I’ve ever met. What’s hard to believe about him is that as amazing as he is on a wakeskate, he’s actually equally unique and inspiring as a true friend and individual. Congratulations, D! And thanks for picking up a wakeskate years ago…
– Thomas Horrell
Editor’s note: Thomas went on to quote the R. Kelly song “The World’s Greatest” in its entirety, but we didn’t have the space (or fortitude) to run it… so here’s the chorus…
“I’m that star up in the sky
I’m that mountain peak up high
Hey I made it
I’m the world’s greatest
I’m that little bit of hope
When my backs against the ropes
I can feel it
I’m the world’s greatest
the world greatest,
the world greatest, forever”