To many a casual observer, {{{CJ}}} Hobgood’s 2001 world title went by grossly unappreciated. Then again, they also probably have never fought their way through the international war zone known as the WQS. If they had, not only would they know what it means to win a title, but what it takes to get there. Here, CJ, examines our new crew of hopefuls and what’s needed to follow his lead.

ON BOBBY MARTINEZ: “He has a lot of strengths. He’s quick in small beachbreaks and surfs with a lot of energy, which is something the judges really like. I can’t really think of anywhere he’d be at a disadvantage. The only disadvantage would be that he’s had some injuries. Your window is so short, and you’ll see kids who get hurt by something that is out of their hands. Still, an injury can be a blessing. Bobby would be my bet to finish the highest at the end of this year because he has the motivating factor of saying to himself, ‘I sat at home all last year and I can’t let that happen again.'”

ON BRUCE IRONS: “He’s just never had that much enthusiasm about it; it’s never really turned him on. The only thing that has turned him on is the gold at the end of the rainbow. The fact that the ‘CT is so great now, the best surfers are on it and they’re getting the best waves — that’s inspired him. It’s hard for him to get motivated because he knows how great a surfer he is, and everyone else does, as well. It’s hard to go out there by yourself, where no one cares how talented you are. And then your sponsors are bummed because you’re not on a photo trip getting photos.”

ON FRED PATACCHIA: “I remember Freddy during his first year out on tour. He just busted out of the gates at a six-star with a second. At that point, I would have bet so much money that he’d make it. He seemed really excited, but he didn’t make the tour that year. That was one of those things where you say, ‘OK, if he doesn’t make it next year it’s only going to get harder.’ It was the same with my brother. When I made the tour and he didn’t, there was huge pressure to make it that next year. But he went out and finished fourth on the WQS. I think Fred has the most against him right now, because he did have such momentum early on. You see guys start going on this roller coaster and then they start doubting themselves. It’s hard. When I was qualifying, I said to myself, ‘If I don’t capitalize on this right now, it will never happen. I’ll never be this enthusiastic again.'”