Even as they came of age alongside some of the most influential, charismatic and culturally important surfers of all time, CJ and Damien Hobgood consistently stood out from the pack. But despite their respective accomplishments and accolades, the identical twins—habitually lumped together by the media, often referred to as simply “The Hobgoods”—struggled, individually, to differentiate themselves.
With the premiere of “And Two if By Sea" coming to the Theatre Box in San Diego on the 19th (and another screening on the 20th), the identity issues related to competitive sibling relationships as well as CJ and Damo's storied careers will be getting the big-screen treatment. Longtime Hobgood friend, director Justin Purser's vision for telling such a tale diverges from the typical "paint by numbers" approach to storytelling. While broaching serious topics, with comedian Daniel Tosh serving as the film's unreliable narrator, "And Two if By Sea" doesn't take itself too seriously.
"First and foremost we knew from the get-go we were not going to make a surf video," Purser said when asked him about his approach to making the film. "The goal was to make a real documentary telling the story of CJ and Damien's relationship as identical twins through the backdrop of their careers, using as little surfing footage as possible to tell their story.
"To go further, I wanted the entire film, from the graphics to the music to the style in which the story is told, to be built out of who the Hobgoods are," he continued. "I've never understood why some biopic documentaries feel so disconnected from their subjects. I also wanted the film to be fun. Most documentaries are more like history lessons and a bit boring."
The film, which has been 6 years in the making, is highly anticipated, and first of the San Diego screenings quickly sold out upon being announced. We caught up with CJ to learn more about what to expect from the film.
How did this documentary come about?
Our good friend Justin Purser, who we grew up with, had moved to Los Angeles and achieved some really great things in the film industry and had been prepared for this. We dreamed about working together on something when we would hang out, and one day we just jumped and said, "Let's start an Indiegogo to see if people would even be interested.” We thought if we could raise a certain amount of money, that would be proof of concept to at least start. Six grueling years later, even after I had given up on the idea multiple times, we finished.
What was the filming process like? Lots of hours doing talking head interviews? There was at least one surf trip, right?
I'm not gonna give any of the movie away. But after multiple screenings, we think we have something, judging by people’s reaction inside and outside of surfing. But yes it's a long process I don't know how these film people do it.
Did you have any reservations about you and your brother’s relationship being put under a microscope? Or was it something you were keen on doing from the jump?
I've had a twin brother that knew all my faults—all my brokenness—and I knew his. There's was no place to hide and we constantly exposed and poked at those areas with each other. That's why we wanted to kill each other a lot. But the beauty of that is that it prepared us to be real and authentic in exposing all the areas in our life to others. So, no, it felt natural and you can see how we approach our family life in that matter and how we did with our surfing. In the end it's a story of restoration seen through surfing with failing relationships, identity issues, etc.
While telling the story of you and brother’s careers, the film also explores the identity issues related to competitive sibling relationships–something that I’d imagine was more pronounced, and probably more interesting to explore from a filmmaking perspective, because you two are twins. Was the making of this movie in anyway therapeutic for you? Were you able to do some reflecting, or hatchet-burying that you may not have done otherwise?
Absolutely. I hope the story can inspire others to recognize their hearts and go in that direction. But, selfishly, telling this story was healing for us. It was closure and it helped me get to the next chapter of my life.
Did you learn anything about yourself or your brother from watching the film?
There's some heavy stuff in there and I had to pray and watch with my wife. Then I watched with my daughters. I had a lot of fears in this, but my prayers were answered.
So this film comes on the heels of the “Momentum Generation” documentary. For me, personally, I think it’s really cool that filmmakers are exploring the impact that surfers from your generation had on surfing, and our culture broadly. Is there a surfer or group of surfers you would like to see get the documentary treatment in the future?
Funny you asked. A way I rationalized doing something extremely selfish—to surf your whole life then make a movie on your life seem very selfish to me—was that, if this succeeds, we will have the blueprint to maybe do something like this again. But the friendships that stand out to me and stories I would love to tell—and I'm not even sure they would be willing cause it takes a lot to go there—would be Carissa Moore and Bobby Martinez.
Stay tuned for more more information on upcoming screenings of “And Two If By Sea”