“All I want to do is surf, fish and serve people.” At 34-years-old, with a wife, two kids and a eleven WCT events to take a swing at this year, CJ Hobgood’s desires are simple as ever. But beyond his easygoing wishfulness, CJ’s got some big things happening. After going six years without a major sponsor, the prime real estate on his board was finally sold (to himself, kind of). CJ’s a partner in a new brand called Salty Crew. And on top of the brand, he and his brother Damien recently announced their intent to make a movie — if you’re into it, that is. The Hobgoods decided to finance the film via crowd-founding. “More than anything, we wanted to see if the surf community wants this,” CJ told me. Which you do, right? Because if you’re not yet sure, see below to discover your affirmative answer.—Brendan Buckley
You're sponsored now. Congrats! Tell us about Salty Crew.
It's been cooking for a little while now. I went 6 years without a main sponsor and I saw a lot of friends lose jobs and sponsorships during that time. For whatever reason, our industry is starting to migrate away from the beach. And having seen that, I sat down with some friends in the beginning of the year and Salty Crew was born. We just felt there was a need, you know? Salty Crew is a movement to get back to the beach. To bring surfing back to the ocean.
So you're part owner?
Yeah, I'm a partner in the brand. After all surfing has done for me, I felt like it was my duty to do something for my neighbor. With Salty, I want to encourage the industry and encourage fellow surfers to get back to the ocean and protect the salt of our community. As the company grows, I want to sponsor surfers and give surfers jobs. It's so exciting to have an opportunity to do that, and I've gotten really into it. I talk to the other Salty guys every single day. Probably too many times a day… I could go on for hours about it.
You're a busy man. And you have a movie in the works? Coincidence?
Yeah, the babies were just kind of born at the same time. Salty has been about a year coming; the movie has been about five years coming. My brother and I feel like the time is now for the movie. We're both at really interesting parts of our careers. All year, people have been asking me about what Damo is going to do. Is he doing the big wave thing now? Is he looking to re-qualify? There are a lot of questions in both of our lives, which makes it a great time to tell our story. We want to tell the story of how we got to this point and try to answer those questions.
What do you expect people to gain from watching it?
I would love for it to be two-fold. There will definitely be sick surf clips in there, but we want it to be about more than that. We want people to walk away from it thinking: I'm not gonna settle for second best or let someone tell me what they think I'm worth. We want to inspire people to go for the best every single time. With work, with play, with everything — regardless of incentives. And we want to push people to think differently about struggles and failures. Even if you have shortcomings or goals you've missed — when you string them all together, they become accomplishments. There's so much you can learn from adversity and I think our story does a good job of illustrating that.
What lead you to the crowd-funding route?
More than anything, we wanted to see if the surf community wants this. We didn't want to seek sponsors or anything like that. We wanted it to be surf-community driven. Because that's who we're making it for: the surf community. We'd love for the movie to be a success, so that it can be used as a blueprint for other surfers to tell their story. There are a lot of good stories out there and we want to help people tell them.
Do you find yourself checking the numbers often?
Well the goal is $80,000 and I check it almost every day. It's been really fun because it's out of our hands. We put ourselves out there and did everything we could, and now it's out of our control. It's something we are really passionate about, but we'll be fine if it fails. Maybe the timing isn't now or we're just not supposed to tell the story. We're just going to try our hardest and be fine with the outcome. Hopefully it works and becomes a catalyst for something bigger.
Oh, and here’s what Damien thinks: