Who Will Be The CJ Hobgood Of The 2020 Tour?
With a truncated Championship Tour season comes the possibility of a surprise world champ. The question is, who?
In 2001, the ASP World Championship Tour was cut short due to the September 11 attacks on American soil.
Only five WCT events ran that year (in comparison to 13 in 2000 and 12 in 2002), and following the final competition at Sunset Beach, CJ Hobgood was declared World Champion.
For nearly two decades, surf fans have used the proverbial “asterisk” to denigrate Clifton James’ sole world title. While CJ’s world title bonus (rumored at $1M) surely provided plenty of insulation* from the haters, it’s also worth noting that, had there been a complete season that year, it’s totally possible that CJ wouldn’t have won.
The point we’re trying to make is that by changing the number of events in a season, you also change the World Title odds. Specifically, the odds become worse for the usual top performers and better for everybody else (because anyone can string a few good results together, but a whole year is a different story).
So with the ongoing pandemic, and Snapper already canceled (the rest of the Oz leg not far behind), we want to know who will be this year’s CJ Hobgood.
First, let’s set some parameters.
Based on the abundant psuedoscience surrounding COVID-19, we can assume that the world’s current state of hysteria and disorder will last for at least six months. This is convenient for the CJ comparison, because if we were to start the Championship Tour in late-August, we’d have exactly five events to decide a World Champ: Teahupo’o, Lemoore, France, Portugal, and Pipe.
So the question is, which surfer is most likely to catch fire during that stretch?
If we’re to base our predictions off recent history, Gabe Medina is the obvious choice. He’s won this five-event stretch three of the past five years, losing the 2019 edition to Italo by a mere 100 points.
But Gabby is also historically appalling at the first 3-5 events of each CT season, which Tehupoo, Lemoore and France would technically be. Plus, the whole point of this exercise is to find someone who might not be able to win a World Title in normal circumstances but could in this specific window.
In that sense, let’s also eliminate John John and Italo, as they’re both former World Champs and clear favorites at these events, along with Adriano de Souza, who used three lifetimes of good fortune in 2015.
Slater would have a legit chance at taking his twelfth Title, as he’s a top-5 performer at Chopes, Lemoore, and Pipe, but besides sharing a home state and male-pattern baldness, CJ and Kelly are rarely mentioned in the same sentence.
Now let’s consider the perennial bridesmaids.
Because two of the five events would be held at big, barreling lefts, Filipe is out (plus, he’ll eventually win a Title the old-fashioned way). I’m skeptical of Jordy for the same reason, though his improvements in recent years keep him in the running.
Julian Wilson and Owen Wright also have legitimate shots. Both dominate at Pipe and Chopes, Julian is one intelligent-judging-decision away from winning Lemoore, and Europe is so random that either of these surfers could walk away World Champ.
Now, can we talk about Kolohe Andino?
Twenty-twenty will be Brother’s ninth year on Tour, and despite consistently elevated performances, he’s yet to earn an event win. Nonetheless, in 2019, Kolohe found himself in the World Title race heading into Pipe, and he has a decent track record in the back half of the year, particularly through Europe (Pipe, however, is his Achille’s heel).
With all of this in mind, I don’t think there’s anyone who would fit the CJ Title mold more aptly than Mr. Andino. He’s a great surfer, a die-hard competitor, a man of God, but with the talent that exists in the world (John, Gab, Italo, etc.) winning has always been a Sisyphean struggle for Brother.
Kolohe’s universal logic dictates that the person who works the hardest should have the most success. My life experience tells me otherwise. The world is not just and talent is not evenly distributed, no matter how hard you will it to be. In that sense, Kolohe could benefit from the structural disturbance of a truncated season. And I really think this could be his time.
For the hell of it, let’s throw some longshots into the mix.
Given the locations, I like Ryan Callinan, Jeremy Flores, and Seth Moniz.
How sick would it be if one of these three won a Title? Especially Jeremy. Guaranteed, he’d retire on the spot, get extremely, happily plump, and only surf three times a year when it was 6-8 foot and perfect (dominating those sessions, obviously).
But to reiterate, Kolohe will be the CJ of our generation. If he truly wants a World Title—and anybody who’s seen Brother surf a one-foot day at T-Street knows that he does—2020 is his year.
*Both figuratively and literally, as CJ reportedly purchased a dope Florida swamp palace (mote included) with his World Title bounty.
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