Sunday, September 5, 2004 (Hebara, Japan) 2001 world champion {{{CJ}}} Hobgood (FL, USA) today clinched his second victory of the season by winning the Quiksilver Pro in Japan. The Foster’s men’s ASP World Championship Tournament (WCT) commenced with quarterfinals this morning, running through until the US$260,000 event climaxed in dramatic fashion.

Clean 3ft (1m) waves were again on offer at Hebara beach. Light rainfall continued, but couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of thousands who crammed the shoreline for a close up view of their surfing heroes.

Hobgood trailed throughout the 30-minute decider against Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, AUS), and most figured the Australian had wrapped it up as the final minutes elapsed. The Floridian never gave up however, and picked off a good lefthander to claw into contention with an 8.23 score. ‘Parko’ remained in front as he surfed his last wave to the beach, but with 40-seconds left, Hobgood caught a righthander and unleashed a ferocious backhand attack – highlighted by a tail sliding re-entry and reverse 360 maneuver on the inside section. When the top single score of exchange was announced for a 9.47, victory was his.

Having also won in Tahiti this year, as well as reached the Quiksilver Pro semifinals in Fiji, the 25-year-old now holds down runner-up position on the current ratings.

“I don’t even know what just happened,” exclaimed Hobgood, moments afterward. “I saw ‘Parko’ just ruling the whole time, but I kept telling myself I was still in it. Then I got that left, and went for broke on my last wave. I knew I had nothing to lose and was able to do a couple of nice turns. I just remember standing on the beach… I seriously didn’t think I got the score. I heard the crowd erupting, but wasn’t sure if they were screaming for me, or just because it was the final and everything was going on (laughs). When I knew, it was the best feeling.

“We’re going to Trestles (Boost Mobile Pro in California) next, so I’ll try to keep the momentum and see if I can pull out something there,” he added. “Me and Kelly, Parko and ‘Damo’… we’ll be fighting it out, so hopefully Andy doesn’t get further in front (on the ratings).”

For Parkinson, the narrow defeat marks his second consecutive runner-up finish in Japan. After posting the highest combined tally of the Quiksilver Pro yesterday, eliminating defending event champ Andy Irons (HAW) this morning, and earning a near-perfect 9.8 to reach the final, ‘Parko’ continued the form onwards. He then locked in two eight plus scores, including an 8.33 for a massive frontside air, but after his opponents last effort, he was suddenly 9.38-points short.

The world #5 won at Bells beach in Australia this year, before missing two WCT’s due to the birth of his daughter Evie. Ironically, today’s result coincides with Father’s Day in his homeland, and both mother and newborn were among the huge crowd present. The 23-year-old is now rated fourth.

“What can you do?” began Parkinson. “I surfed as hard as I could, but got beaten by someone who surfed way better. It’s a bad thing for CJ to do to me on Father’s Day and all (laughs). I was devastated for about five minutes, but I’m starting to feel better now that I have a Foster’s beer in me. I would have loved to win, but I lost.”

Equal third were Chris Davidson (Narrabeen, AUS) and Kalani Robb (HAW). Both surfed exceptionally to reach the semifinals and created major upsets along the way.

Davidson secured his best result to date, jumping from 40th into 24th position on the ratings. Having missed three WCT’s earlier this year due to a seriously cut foot, his high finish provided a huge confidence boost. Against Parkinson he was unable to bridge the massive gap established by his opponents near-perfect 9.8 score – following two aerials and a tube – and lacked a combination of scores worth 17.14-points.

“Sort of what I did to ‘Hedgey’ the other day, ‘Parko did to me then,” explained Davidson, of the one-sided exchange. “He got off to a commanding start and then found another good wave. I’m stoked with third, but there is disappointment, as I would have liked to make a final.”

Robb was also positioned low on the ratings following poor results this season, but a third placing has pushed him into 20th spot. Having eliminated six-time world champion Kelly Slater in their nail-biting quarterfinal, he then contested a great battle with CJ, but required an additional 7.51 score at completion.

“I’m really stoked, and CJ surfed great,” said Robb. “There wasn’t too many good waves coming through, so I knew whoever got them would pretty much win. Surfing against Kelly in the quarters was an honor. He’s such a good surfer, so to beat him I was really stoked. I’ve done badly all year, so this is really good.”

Finishing equal fifth in the Quiksilver Pro today was Darren O’Rafferty (Port Macquarie, AUS), Andy Irons, Slater, and fellow Floridian Damien Hobgood.

Irons – the reigning two-time world champion – posted the only perfect 10 of the tournament yesterday, but against Parkinson in a rematch of last year’s final, was unable to find a waves of similar potential. While his opponent locked in an 8.0, the Kauaian ultimately required a combination of scores worth 15.18-points. Nonetheless, a fifth marks his lowest result of the season and he still holds a commanding ratings lead.

“That’s what you call peaking way too early,” acknowledged Irons, of his performance compared to previous rounds. “Last year I had a really good thing going on ‘Parko’ and smoked him a couple of times, but this year he’s got it on me. He’s comboed me two heats now, so I’m feeling pretty sour right about now. Quarterfinals are fine though, as this is a marathon, not a sprint. Fifth is my worst result, so I did what I came here to do.”

Slater held advantage over Robb towards the end, but the Hawaii swung things with his final 7.5 ride in the dying minutes. The Floridian was visibly frustrated, especially since Irons had lost the heat prior and finally created an opportunity for others to gain ground. As it happened, the 32-year-old was dealt his fourth quarterfinal finish of the year and slipped to third on the ratings.

“I made a mistake I was totally aware of,” acknowledged Slater. “I gave away priority with 6-minutes left, and Kalani just waited until one wave came which had some shape. He got a long ride, and even though he fell at the end, still got the score. It’s a little frustrating for me. A big opportunity missed as far as points go. Instead, I’ve just stayed equally far back, so now it makes each contest from here on out a little more work.”

The fourth quarterfinal showcased the Hobgood twins in their first head-to-head clash, and while CJ ran away with it thanks to catching virtually every good wave, he was quick to highlight the incredible experience of the competing against his brother. Damien is now fifth on the current ratings.

“That was an experience not too many people get to enjoy,” stated CJ. “In the quarterfinals of a ‘CT – the highest level of competition for surfing, with your brother.”

For complete coverage of the Quiksilver Pro in Japan: www.quiksilver.com

Official Quiksilver Pro Results
1st CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.7 – US$30,000
2nd Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.33 – US$16,000

Semifinals (1st>Final; 2nd=3rd receives US$10,000)
SF1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.13 def. Chris Davidson (AUS) 9.5
SF2: CJ Hobgood (USA) 14.0 def. Kalani Robb (HAW) 12.77

Quarterfinals (1st>Semifinals; 2nd=5th receives US$8,000)
QF1: Chris Davidson (AUS) 13.0 def. Darren O’Rafferty 12.5
QF2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.17 def. Andy Irons (HAW) 6.33
QF3: Kalani Robb (HAW) 14.34 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.26
QF4: CJ Hobgood (USA) 15.5 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 6.96

Current ASP Ratings After WCT #6
1. Andy Irons (HAW) 5,748-points
2. CJ Hobgood (USA) 4,644
3. Kelly Slater (USA) 4,284
4. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 4,008
=5. Damien Hobgood (USA); Nathan Hedge (AUS) 3,912
7. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 3,876
8. Jake Paterson (AUS) 3,696
9. Dean Morrison (AUS) 3,492
10. Michael Lowe (AUS) 3,468