The Champs Interview: C.J. Hobgood

Ceej, the modern surfer/sportsman, is a classic example in a way of the changes in surfing society. He's a clean cut guy who doesn't play up on tour, yet who possesses enough surfing skills to earn respect from the wildest of pro-tour partiers. He's got the potential to match AI and Slater in a title run yet he wonders if he's really mean and crazy enough to do so. He's almost too humble, yet underneath the modesty he's super confident of his abilities, and it seems pretty clear he has a plan – and not just for the next heat.

NC: OK, now I guess what I've been trying to do is see if there's some group of connecting influences among top surfers that would lead to understanding about what it takes to win a world championship.

{{{CJ}}}: It's weird, but we were talking about it yesterday, me Andy and Sunny, and saying gosh it's weird, we kinda have the same influences and talk about the same people.

I'd like you to tell me as much as you can about your family, where they were from, what you know about them, events in their life.

Yeah, my Dad was from North Carolina, a town called Oxford outside of Raleigh. My Mom's from Richmond, Virginia. My Mom's mom, my grandmom is Italian. My Dad's side of the family is more French {{{Cherokee}}}. My Mom and my Dad went to Richmond Virginia, my Mom went there to be a nurse, my dad went to dentistry school there. The old joke was if you can't find a date, get a nurse. My Dad said he was on his way up and he stopped at the third floor, and met my Mom. My Dad always wanted to surf. When he lived in North Carolina he drove four hours every weekend to go surf. That's all he wanted to do and all he cared about, getting out of school and moving to Florida so he could get close to the beach. He moved to Cocoa Beach. When we were born they moved to Satellite Beach and my parents have lived in that same house all their life, That's where I grew up, where my twin brother grew up, where my little sister and brother grew up. Growing up my Grandma took care of us, my mother worked fulltime and my Dad worked fulltime, and we were just middle class. My godfather, who is the doctor my Mom worked for, paid for us to go to California for the first couple times 'cause my parents didn't have very much money, he kinda invested in me becoming a surfer. We started on a boogie board, when were six my dad bought us a surfboard, he always took us to the beach. Because my little sister and little brother were always fighting, and me and my brother were always fighting, they had to get half of us out of the house so my Dad took me and Dam to the beach. He would surf all day and we would play in the water and play on the beach all day, that was kinda the deal. My parents still live in the same house and I currently live in Satellite Beach about five minutes away from them. I have a wife, Rachel, I have a little girl whose seven months now, it's good 'cause Grandma's there and you can just drop her off at their house. Her parents are from Rocklidge and they live pretty close too. It's good. It's pretty rooty, I guess. (laughs) I didn't stray too far.

Any record of sporting achievements in the family?

To be honest I don't know of any. My Dad was a good tennis player and he used to tell me he was ranked 50th in the state. He always had tennis trophies. I remember once going to play tennis with him, I was about eight years old and I remember saying: "Dad! Gimme one of your GOOD serves!" (laughs) But that's kinda all there is. I think if there were more I think my Dad wouldn't have told me about 'em. My parents are both pretty humble people and I don't think unless I seriously asked them they would tell me.

Tell me about the type of surf you rode in your first year.

The type of surf I thought it was good head high surf every day. Obviously that's not the case, but … I had trouble sometimes getting out when I first started surfing, I had to learn how to duckdive. It was just beachbreak, just mushy beachbreak. When the days were longer I could fit a surf in before school sometimes. But mainly it was just ride the bike home as fast as you could, grab a bowl of cereal, and go surf till it was dark. That was pretty much the standard. I did that every day. I played soccer for a while, then I got into baseball, me and my brother were into baseball, we loved it and got into it. Then when we were like 13 we stopped that and just surfed.

So you did have some other sporting experiences.

Oh yeah. I love it all. It's just you have to make a decision when you're getting older.

Can you describe for me the competitive impulse, what it feels like, when you feel it, can you control it, or does it just pop up when it's called for.

Ummm, it's a situation you're in where your back's against the wall, it's like an angry competitive like fire. But at the same time it's an angry competitive excitement. You just know you're gonna prove everyone wrong, and you know you're gonna achieve big time and you can't wait for that next wave to come in so you can do stuff you've never even done before. If you can think of it you can do it at that moment. A lot of times your back's against the wall. Not all the time do you have to call on it and not all the time do you find it. It's not a constant thing. It happens and you try to figure out how it happened and how you got there, and you try to get yourself in that position and that mode again. There's certain levels of it I guess.

Is it something that's restricted to surfing competition or does it show up in other areas?

It's totally restricted to surfing competition for me. I play other sports and I can't call on it and I end up losing 'cause I'm thinking too much. I have it because I wanna do anything to win and I was given the gift of surfing so I know that's what I'm supposed to be doing. All that other stuff's just kinda fun stuff, surfing's my calling so I have to make the most of it.