Feature 03


Damon Hayes was born in Perth & raised on the beaches of Western Australia

"I had two options as a kid, surf or surf. The gift of surfing & the beach that my father gave me pathed my entire life as everything I have done & been involved with has been something to do with surfing."

He Chased the pro tour dream & made plenty of contacts via that journey that would come into play later in his working career at Rusty. ‘’I worked for Rusty for 20 years & was one of those stories of someone that started at the bottom & rose to the top with my main role being the International Marketing & Athlete Manager.’’ The role at Rusty working within marketing & with some of the world’s best Pro’s & Free surfers, including his competitive background gave Damon the DNA to be able to pass on all that knowledge which he now channels through the Damon Haye Surf Academy.


MC – How is the surf Academy different from other surf school programs/classes?

DH – ‘We have a variety of coaching techniques for intermediate and advanced surfers. We structure the lessons to bring out the best in surfer’s abilities and to help advance their skill level effectively’. 

My goal is to help guide, develop and support junior surfing while creating an environment that is encouraging, positive, educational and fun. I want Damon Hayes Surf Academy to be part of the local community, to create and support it and to bring people together. I want to give back to surfing - something which has given me so much.


MC – Who was Damon Hayes in high school?

DH – Was the quiet kid, put my head down did the work. Soon as the siren rang I was out of there & straight down the beach.


MC – Who or what got you first into surfing?

DH – The old boys love of surfing & the beach. He never forced the beach on me, I just had a natural love for it. He knew I’d be a good surfer as he would take me down when I was 8 years old in the afternoon in summer when it blows 100 knots onshore & I would surf the shorey for hours. Get swept down the beach, come in & run around, repeat until the sunset.


MC – 3 things that Surfing has given you or taught you as an individual?

DH – 

  1. To get respect you have to show respect.
  2. If the world is crumbling around you a surf will be the best cure.
  3. The ocean is like life, it can all change in a minute, go with its flow.


    MC – Let’s talk about your time in the surf industry and your involvement in it.

    How have you seen it develop over the years both locally and globally?

    DH – I was sponsored by Billabong as a grom, the team manager Vince Lawder took me under his wing as I was the token West Ozzie, everyone loves a West Ozzie. So when we would go on trips I would hang out with him & be always fascinated by the way he conducted business. Vince shaped the business mindset I would carry throughout my career & watching how good his job was I wanted to work in the surf industry on some level. As the surfing career dwindled I did some time with Billabong under Vince in marketing, team & also worked in their retail sector in Queensland.

    Came back to Perth & took a job for the state's premier surf store at the time Star Surf. Managed their hardgoods sections being board, wetsuits, accessories.

    So coming from Billabong I understood wholesale & the Star Surf taught me about retail. 2 different monsters.

    An opportunity came up at Rusty to work within their surfboard program which I jumped at. From selling boards, wet & drying them to packing them up & sending them off. As Rusty started to get bigger the business needed more help so I was bought in to help the sales & marketing departments. At that stage, I was the gofer (go for this go for that) but I was learning from the ground up & over time the skill set grew to where I was given more responsibility. The brand saw potential in me & paid for my ECU Marketing degree as I was becoming a big asset for them. Someone that understood surf, retail, wholesale & was connected with surfers, media & known within the industry. The business kept on growing & growing so did my job roles & job descriptions to where I was appointed the International Marketing & Athlete Manager. 

    That was a dream role as I got to travel the globe visiting licensee, attending CT events & going on exotic surf trips with the team.

    The early 2000’s the surf industry growth was huge, it was a licence to print money. Budgets where huge & the good times rolled. Then the global financial crisis happened & boom overnight the good times came to a halt.

    That’s when the surf industry changed, while the big companies were cutting back a new era was born. A handful of small cool brands started to appear & the youth market wanted something fresh as they have seen Billabong splashed all over the news talking stocks & to a grom corporate wasn’t cool hence the shift to the new small cool brands.

    The flow-on effect from that is now consumers like to stay loyal to the local brands as its bringing that community vibe back. Small niche brands that are talking directly to their consumers. It’s a cool time to be a brand in this space.


    MC – What do you see as a common mistake/misunderstanding that up and coming surfers make when trying to break into the surf league?

    DH – It’s a long road to the top & only a handful are going to make that top level.

    The QS is as they say a grind, it’s a lot of traveling & average waves. Not having the right equipment is a common mistake & it’s all about mindset & wanting it more than the other guy in the heat. As more than likely, that guy is from Brazil & is surfing to feed & support his family, a hungry man is harder to beat.


    MC – How have the demographics changed over the years in surfing?

    DH – The 2 biggest changes in the surfing demographic is there are more young kids surfing & more female surfers.

    More parents have been & still are keen surfers & now they are passing that onto their kids. Full surfing families. Many moons ago most groms were dropped at the beach & the dad went & played golf, now he goes for a surf with his kids instead.


    MC – Did your family support your surfing and how did that impact you?

    DH – Was fortunate enough to have a father who loved surfing & he passed on that stoke to me. He took me surfing every morning, took me to every event & was in my corner always.

    Some of the surfing advice he gave me I use in my coaching & pass onto the groms.


    MC – Best surf location you’ve ever been to?

    DH – Western Australia is the best location for waves. I have been to most locations around the world & it trips me out how good this state it. 3 hours from Perth is Margaret River & 10 hours north has the best waves I have ever seen.

    Was in Brazil with Josh Kerr at the CT when it was held in Rio. Josh broke his board in the heat & I had to get 10 security guards to circle me to run down the beach with his spare board. The Brazos were trying to steal his back up board from under my arms & the security guards where knocking crew out that was going for me, that was rad.


    MC – What does the future hold for Damon Hayes and the surf academy?

    DH – It’s simple. To keep to the main goal of helping kids progress with their surfing.


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