2008 ROTY – Danny Hampson
2008 Rider of the Year – Danny Hampson
by Garrett Cortese
Living the lake life again photo: Cortese
Editor’s Note: Leading up to the announcement of the 2015 Rider of the Year we are re-releasing pieces of each of the past 14 ROTY articles from the magazine. Danny Hampson won the coveted title in 2008 having returned from a terrible neck injury and dominating wakeskating with his signature style and personality.
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 getting back into the groove of riding following his life altering injury. All of us on the trop thought Danny was riding really well 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, the rest of us 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 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 through. 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 that he was out a lot of kids filled them. It was apparent during out 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 accident. 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 one 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.
Danny’s ROTY cover photo: Cortese