2001 WCT World Champion CJ Hobgood recently won the ISA gold medal for the USA at the ISA World Games in Portugal. This after a convincing win at Mundaka in the Billabong Pro WCT. It seemed an opportune time for us to give CJ a call and find out what went down in Portugal and dig for some insight regarding the WCT now that Kelly Slater has clinched the WCT mens title. –Scott Bass
SURFER: CJ, first of all congratulations on your gold medal winning performance in Portugal.
CJ HOBGOOD: Thank you very much Scott.
SURFER: Tell us a little bit about the ISA World Games. What was the event like? What was the competition like? What were the waves like?
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CJ HOBGOOD: Well me and Benny (Bourgeois) got there on Sunday night and slept, and woke up Monday and didn’t even look at the ocean, just went down there (contest site) and it was pretty much firing. And we were like, “Whoa, how good is this place!?” We surfed in our heats on Monday through Friday and those heats, you know, you got guys from Switzerland and Trinidad Tobago, and those guys have got grins from ear to ear. They are just sooo stoked to be there. And so Benny and I went out there and sort of did our thing. And then the contest really sort of starts on Friday, ’cause then heats start to get hard, then you have start trying. And the waves turned into, you know, Huntington Beach-ish, US Open low tide dribble. It was pretty much just dribble. Then on Saturday I had two chances to get to the final and I lost my first heat. Those ISA heats are kind of weird, ’cause you only have twenty minutes. I had just surfed in Mundaka where it was 40 minute heats.
SURFER: You have to get busy right away don’t you?
CJ HOBGOOD: You have to get real busy. And it is really like a 15-minute heat. Because if you don’t have your waves in the first 5 or 10 minutes most of the guys will just come and sit on you. Because they know they can’t out surf you, but they can keep you from catching waves.
SURFER: Well you brought home the gold for coach Joey Buran and Team USA. How cool would it be to get you and your brother Damien on the USA surf team together?
CJ HOBGOOD: Yeah, I have to bite my tongue a lot because it is a process. I want to go in there and start lobbying for my brother and Chris Ward and Timmy Reyes and Taylor Knox. And I talked to Mick (Fanning) and I thought how cool would it be to surf against Mick in the final! That was the gold carrot– if I could surf against Mick in the final. But it obviously didn’t turn out that way because Mick is injured. I know he wanted to be there. But better than that, I surfed against two surfers who I have big time respect for in Kai Otton and Dayan Neves. It was a good final. But yeah, my instinct is to lobby those guys (WCT Americans) and get them involved but everyone has so much going on in their lives. I just go, ‘Okay, if it is on his heart he will show up.”
Born and raised in Florida, Clifton James Hobgood has heavily concreted his standing on tour as a freakish all round performer. His last-minute heroics in the 2004 Quiksilver Pro in Japan where he came from behind to defeat Joel Parkinson after landing an amazing air showed he not only has the ability but has the mental toughness to beat the best of the best. Hobgood has also proven his clout in the big stuff with both a victory at the 2004 Billabong Pro in Tahiti and a runner-up finish at the 2005 Globe Pro in Fiji. Touted by US magazines in the 1990s as being a potential heir apparent to Kelly Slater’s then tour reign, Hobgood lived up to the expectations and grappled the Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour champion trophy in 2001. Since then has proven to be a constant thorn in the side of anyone he draws and many believe that his 2001 title definitely won’t be his last. Watch for him to bolt to the lead of the pack if he finds form and confidence in the first few events.
For more insight into CJ Hobgood visit Hobgoods.com
SURFER: Switching gears, I want to talk about the WCT. Obviously Brazil is coming up this week. No Kelly. No Andy Irons. No Bruce Irons. No Joel Parkinson. No Mick Fanning. As it turns out 11 of the top 45 WCTers won’t even make it to Brazil. What is the vibe among the WCT pros going into Brazil?
CJ HOBGOOD: Aww…(long pause), well I think every year going into Brazil the underlying factor is re-qualifying. Guys are biting their nails off, stressing. Re-qualification in Brazil is the same every year because you never know what can happen in Hawaii. Beyond that, for me, it’s like, when it rains it pours. I’m hoping things are will continue to go my way. I want to keep the ball rolling. I also want to go into Hawaii and give the Triple Crown a go. I’ve never really showed up at Haleiwa and /or Sunset with a good board under my feet. My time in the sun is fading and I want to go into Hawaii and give the Triple Crown a good run. I saw Bede do it last year.
SURFER: Do you think he WCT schedule should be changed so that we see more emphasis put on the Hawaii event, perhaps a back weighting the tour so the final showdown is the Pipeline Masters?
CJ HOBGOOD: Yeah (hesitant) I mean.. you guys know as well as I do, Hawaii is a different one. There is so much politics going on their lately. Lots of things happening that are not helping out the sport, I don’t think. I know this time around I’m getting all these emails about, “we only have three days to run Pipe (Masters)” and “we have to run dual format” and all this stuff, and you know… I’d like to see… it could happen, who knows, Pipe would be the ultimate arena for the world title to go down, but, with that being said, you know…, there is a lot of things going on outside of the structure, and how everything is done…I don’t know, I’d rather someone slug it out where it is our format (WCT) that the (WCT) surfers chose, where it is man-on-man, 30 minutes, someone goes out there and fights it out. I hate to see politics involved where someone goes out there and sits on someone or whatever. It’s so hard to figure out, it’s sort of like six-in-one, half-a-dozen in the other. I don’t even know (laughs).
SURFER: Well CJ, best of luck in Brazil and Hawaii we look forward to a big finish from you.
CJ HOBGOOD: Thanks Scott.