Saturday, May 15, 2004 (Teahupoo, Tahiti) 2001 world champion CJ Hobgood (FL, USA) today won a drama filled Billabong Pro. The US$260,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) resumed this morning, running right through the business end until the Floridian was crowned in unfortunate circumstances.
Perfect 8ft (2.5m) surf was again on offer. Rainsqualls drifted over the flotilla of boats and spectators, but hardly affected the awesome barrels racing along the reef.
Against Nathan Hedge (Narrabeen, AUS), the 35-minute final actually commenced terribly for Hobgood, who broke his surfboard first wave. Moments later though, ‘Hog’ took off on a huge wave and maneuvered up into the barrel. His left arm was literally pulled from its socket during the proceeding wipeout, dislocating it from the shoulder. Distressed, he was rushed to shore by water safety, where three unsuccessful attempts were made to remedy the situation, before he was taken to hospital.
Meanwhile, Hobgood remained in the lineup trying to better his opponent’s initial lead. Uncertain of the injury at first, the 24-year-old locked in a 7.83 for advantage, and later an 8.83 score. The two-time event runner-up (1999 & ’01) was eventually informed Hedge would not be retuning, and that the prestigious title was finally his.
Having collected a perfect 10 in the quarterfinals, as well as one of the highest combined tallies ever (19.84-points) to beat six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) in the semifinals, few could doubt Hobgood’s credentials for victory. Furthermore, having missed the latter half of 2003 due to a dirt bike accident that resulted in a broken ankle, today’s outcome proved bitter sweet.
“I’ve been on tour long enough to say a win’s a win, and I’ll take it anyway I can get it,” stated Hobgood afterward. “I’ve only won one event before, and it took three years to get another (laughs). Also, I’ve been in the final here a few times and come up second to ‘Occy’ (1999) and Cory (Lopez – 2001). It feels so good, but is weird the way it turned out.
“I love ‘Hog’, and know he’d be stoked to win if he was in my shoes and I was hurt, as I’d be happy for him,” he added. “It was weird to be out there alone, but after about 10-minutes my brother told me he’d dislocated his shoulder. I kept catching waves and took the lead, but didn’t really know what to do. I love to win, but I want to win fair and square too.
“It’s been a long road,” he continued, referring to his own injury. “I was in 6th place last year after (the Billabong Pro at) J-Bay, but I did something stupid and surfing was taken away from me for eight months. I’m stoked I had my wife there to take care of me. It’s behind me now and I’m just trying to focus on what’s in front.”
For Hedge, the runner-up finish is his best on tour. Having defeated reigning two-time world champion and 2002 Billabong Pro Teahupoo winner Andy Irons (Kauai, HAW) in the semis, the powerful goofy footer was psyched for his first final’s appearance. The result still pushed him into equal third on the ratings, but if determination amounts to anything, he’s sure to get another chance soon enough.
Equal third today were Irons and Slater. The pair appeared destined for their first man-on-man clash in a final, but for the thousands of wishful spectators watching live and online, it wasn’t to be.
Irons, with three previous wins to his credit at Teahupoo, lost his battle against Hedge during the final minute. Despite confusion over initial priority allocation, Irons held a comfortable lead throughout, but watched as ‘Hog’ paddled into final set wave and locked in a 9.0 to advance. Nonetheless, after finishing runner-up in the season opener, and now earning his second consecutive semifinal placing, the Kauaian extended his strong ratings lead.
“He actually caught a wave on his hands and knees and didn’t stand up, but I thought I had priority,” explained Irons. “Then he went behind me (next ride), so there could have been an interference call. It was a little sneaky, but he surfed well and got the score on his last wave.
“I want to make finals and win,” he added. “Thirds and seconds are great, but it’s not first and I really enjoy the wins. It hasn’t happened yet this year, but I’ve been really close. Going into Tavarua, where I did really well last year, hopefully I can keep the ball rolling.”
Slater, the defending two-time (2000 & ’03) event winner, was again at his freakish best throughout the tournament. The 32-year-old collected two 10’s en-route to the semifinals, but then had the tables turned by Hobgood, who left him needing a combined near-perfect tally of 19.93-points.
“I got on a run and had three really good heats in a row,” acknowledged Slater. “The CJ went crazy in the semis, with a 9.87 and a 9.97. There are very few heats in the history of surfing that have been that high, so the chances of me coming back and catching him were pretty slim. I was actually stoked to lose a heat where someone surfed really well, instead of me making mistakes. I had a couple of waves where if I came out of the barrel I might have scored 10’s, but it just wasn’t to be.”
Finishing equal fifth in the Billabong Pro Teahupoo were Damien Hobgood (FL, USA), 2000 ASP world champion Sunny Garcia (HAW), Danny Wills (Byron Bay) and fellow Australian Luke Egan (Gold Coast).
Damien posted a perfect 10-point ride against Hedge in their epic quarterfinal, but even this wasn’t enough to guarantee advancement.
“I got that good one and was so pumped up,” said Hobgood. “We were both hoping the battle would go on, but then the carpet just got pulled from underneath us, as the waves stopped.”
Wildcard Hira Teriinatoofa proved the most successful Tahitian in this year’s tournament, placing equal 9th. The 25-year-old eliminated West Australians Jake Paterson and Taj Burrow, before being stopped in a tight battle with CJ Hobgood.
*15 surfboards were broken in half during the 2004 Billabong Pro Teahupoo, with four perfect 10-point rides awarded*
The Billabong Pro Teahupoo had an international web team working round the clock to cater to the global audience in four different languages. From instant replays, surfer profiles and interviews, statistics, video clips, live scoring and event statistics, audiences were involved in the competition more fully than if they were watching from the edge of the coral reef.
Special thanks must also be given to the Tahitian and Hawaiian Water Safety crew, who continued to defy what seems possible, pulling surfers out of danger with the illusion of ease throughout the tournament.
The Billabong Pro Teahupoo was staged with the support of The Tahitian Surfing Federation, Air New Zealand, Von Zipper, Bose and The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP).
*To receive ASP news you must register at: http://188.8.131.52/asp/mediacenter.asp
Billabong Pro Teahupoo www.billabongpro.com
1st CJ Hobgood (USA) 16.66 – US$30,000
2nd Nathan Hedge (AUS) 8.67 – US$16,000
Semifinals (1st>Final; 2nd=3rd receives US$10,000)
SF1: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 16.83 def. Andy Irons (HAW) 15.5
SF2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 19.84 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 17.03
Quarterfinals (1st>Semifinals; 2nd=5th receives US$8,000)
QF1: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 17.57 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 16.17
QF2: Andy Irons (HAW) 17.83 def. Sunny Garcia (HAW) 13.0
QF3: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 19.7 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 8.5
QF4: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.0 def. Luke Egan (AUS) 14.84
Round Four (1st>Quarterfinals; 2nd=9th receives US$5,000)
H1: Damien Hobgood (USA) 17.67 def. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 13.83
H2: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 16.67 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 15.83
H3: Sunny Garcia (HAW) 18.47 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 17.5
H4: Andy Irons (HAW) 15.0 def. Lee Winkler (AUS) 11.4
H5: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.43 def. Hira Teriinatoofa (PYF) 15.37
H6: Daniel Wills (AUS) 14.0 def. Trent Munro (AUS) 5.33
H7: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.6 def. Peterson Rosa (BRA) 4.57
H8: Luke Egan (AUS) 13.77 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.66
Remaining Round Three Heats (1st>Rnd4; 2nd=17th receives US$4,225)
H15: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.6 def. Tim Curran (USA) 17.1
H16: Luke Egan (AUS) 17.5 def. Kalani Robb (HAW) 13.9
Official ASP Ratings after WCT #3
1. Andy Irons (HAW) 2,784-points
2. Kelly Slater (USA) 2,340
=3. Taj Burrow (AUS); Nathan Hedge (AUS) 2,112
=5. Joel Parkinson (AUS); CJ Hobgood (USA) 2,088