By Damien John.
Images: James Fenton.
First time I ever held a bodyboard was when I was 4 years old.
First time I put a pair of fins on, was when I was 9.
That was when it started.
My love for the ocean, the waves, the feeling of being free.
I lived in a quiet little beach town in NSW, “The real” Copacabana, not the one in Brazil!
Living in Copa, this perfect little piece of paradise had its dark side too, which is what led me to make a lot of bad choices as a teenager.
At a young age, I got mixed up with the wrong crowds, doing all sorts drugs, smoking, drinking excessively and trashing my body at every opportunity.
The only thing I knew I could rely on, was the ocean. It was always the place where I could just be, silence everything in my head.
Then came the tax file number, the moment in your life, where you have to grow up and become an adult.
Work to make a living and survive.
I was trying to balance my love of body boarding, competing, partying, and work basically.
It worked for a while, but your responsibilities as an adult and life’s pressures can get the better of you.
Slowly I started to lose touch with the ocean, bodyboarding took a back seat while my life as a chef had begun, an industry where you are overworked, underpaid, abused and the only ally you can find is a bottle of hard whiskey and a packet of Peter Stuyvesant reds.
The dependence on drugs becomes harder because this is how I now escape.
For years it was a viscous cycle, same shit, different week. Your vision is clouded by the poison you are constantly putting in your body. Don’t get me wrong it was a lot of fun at times, but it is not a way to live.
As the years went on, I met my wife (a fiery hot Croatian) had my first daughter (then a second) , got my first mortgage and started a successful little café.
It seemed like I had everything, but inside my head, I still wanted to party, take drugs, and just be bad. I was rebelling against everyone and everything, and I didn’t know why. I never thought I could actually be suffering from depression, a mental illness, that doesn’t discriminate.
All I wanted to do was take drugs and surf.
My world was literally falling to pieces, my wife left me, taking my kids, I was living on random couches, taking drugs and my world getting darker and darker.
I knew I had two paths from which I could choose, and I still wanted to go down the wrong one.
I then lost my father, very suddenly, in 2019. That was it for me. My old man, gone! All the shit I had put him through. I was drowning in guilt and regrets. I was inspired by him, he was my hero!!
I suppose you could say, losing my dad, was my turning point. I wanted to make him proud. I hated who I was, when he died.
It was time for change!!!
I started to speak up about what I was going through, had done some research into different ways to change the mind and slow it down.
I decided to leave a career, that for me, was toxic, and venture into one that involves the ocean.
I also started to practice the principles of Wim Hof ( aka the ice man ). The breathing techniques and cold therapies seemed to instantly work for me. For the past 6 months, this has been my mantra. I get up, clear my mind, breath and have the coldest possible shower
(Ice baths are getting easier), along with getting off the smokes, the drugs and the heavy drinking.
I am bodyboarding better than I ever have before. I am in the ocean every chance I can, trying to heal as much as I can.
These photos were taken at my home beach, Copa. It was nuts, out the back it was 7-8 foot, rolling through a deep channel into 5-6 foot shoreys , wedging left and right in 10cm deep water and some how holding? Non-stop 3 hour session.
I haven’t seen my local break like this in 10+ years. Just one of them moments when everything comes together, the winds, tides, swell, weather and a few good mates, Epic!!!
I will never forget it and will always remember it as a “magic hour”, as some of my mates referred to it.
Never give up on yourself, no matter how dark it gets, lean on those around you, no matter how proud you might be. I wouldn’t have made it without the support of my family and friends. And don’t miss those “magic hours” when they only come around once every 10 years!