CJ Hobgood is The Man in the Middle
They’re the closest of friends but as CJ Hobgood puts it, “this is war. I wanna kill him and he wants to kill me and the ocean wants both of us.” This Saturday, Mick Fanning and CJ will float into the Pipe lineup for their Round Five heat, with a 12-foot NW swell striking the […]
They’re the closest of friends but as CJ Hobgood puts it, “this is war. I wanna kill him and he wants to kill me and the ocean wants both of us.” This Saturday, Mick Fanning and CJ will float into the Pipe lineup for their Round Five heat, with a 12-foot NW swell striking the lava. If Mick wins, he’ll be one heat away from taking the world title. If CJ wins, the title is up for grabs, with Kelly Slater needing to win the event to claim the crown. It will be one of the most dramatic final days in ASP history and CJ was kind enough to take time outta his prep and dial us in…
Stab: In a couple of days, you’re gonna play a pivotal role in one of surf history’s most dramatic finales. How are you feeling right now?
CJ Hobgood: I’ve been prepared for this moment. Last year I had Joel in the quarters in pretty damn good Pipe and Backdoor. He beat me, then my brother (Damien) to win the world title against Slater. I’ve been on the beach when Benny B (Bourgeois) won a title for me (in 2001) so I know the feeling, it’s exciting and fun. I just know I gotta beat the socks off Mick for the win. They always make the underdog work harder, you saw that last year when me and Damo had Joel. It was close and the judges gave the nod to Joel, without a doubt. That is one of the factors why Mick dropped in on JJ (John John) in that final heat.
In the 15 years you’ve been a World Tour surfer, where does this rate in the most important heats you’ve surfed? If I win Pipe this contest will rate best ever. If I make anything less than that it will be another let down for me, plain and simple, nothing more and nothing less.
Tell us about your history with Mick. Mick’s awesome, his character is amazing, the best I’ve ever seen. I would consider him a close friend, if I needed something I would call him. But me and Mick both know the task at hand. This is war, I wanna kill him and he wants to kill me and the ocean wants both of us. That is what’s at stake. We’re connected to each other’s stories because of these battles and when we get to the beach that’s why we’re friends.
But, you and Kelly are both from Florida and you’re longtime friends. Will hometown team spirit be in the mix? Look, I wanna beat Mick and then I wanna beat Kelly in the final. That’s my dream scenario, that’s what I want. Mick has two world titles. Kelly, I forget how many, and who knows how many Pipe trophies. I have no Pipe trophy and that’s my life long dream, it’s why I started surfing. But yes, Kelly has helped every surfer that’s put on a jersey, he’s a friend of mine I’m thankful to have, and the best surfer to ever live.
Does the pressure of this situation change anything for you? No, because I’ve prepared myself by surfing Pipe since I was 15 and competing for the last 15 years. I’m the man for the job. Mick beat me in the semis in Fiji on a last second wave and a questionable priority call. I want revenge but the task will be hard, I understand that.
Your leg’s injured. How will that play? I’m fine if I paddle out in a heat. I’d never make an excuse for anything. That’s disrespectful to your opponent. Everyone’s carrying something, could be mental or physical. Just leave it on the beach.
The World Title’s a big deal, but there’s a lot at stake here for you too. You’re touring at your own expense without a major sponsor. I have faith that The Man will take care of me. I’ve been in this mindset for quite some time. That’s why I’ve had so much growth in my life this year. Nothing at stake for me, brother.
We’re looking down the barrel of a 12-foot NW swell for your heat with Mick. What changes out there at that size? First, I think it’s all man on man now – no overlapping heats, but don’t quote me on that. If that’s the case and the waves are big, I feel most of the heat will be man vs ocean, maybe a little tactical at the beginning and end. If it’s a morning heat conditions could be funky. It feels like, if this is true, I like my chances.
You’re one of the best frontside barrel riders in the world and you’d think a swell of this size will favour Pipe over Backdoor. How comfortable are you at Pipe at that size? Wait, you said I was one of the best forehand barrel riders then asked if I was comfortable at Pipe (laughter). I love the thrill of the unknown, dropping into a good sized wave that takes all my skill and the consequences are great. You never know when the ocean is big how you’ll fare, but that’s what keeps us coming back.
And Pipe, the ultimate theatre. Are you ready? When Pipe broke the day after Thanksgiving I put in my time, tried boards, rode the bull. – Jed Smith
Follow Jed on Twitter, here.
GoPro’d and ears pinned back on day two. ASP/Kirstin
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