Less than two weeks after the new ASP rankings re-shuffle cut CJ Hobgood from the roster of the Hurley Pro Trestles, he got his sweet sweet revenge at the very next Prime event by winning the Billabong Azores Islands Pro yesterday.
The 32-year old Hobgood out-punted a much younger field, including an all out dog fight in the final against Nate Yeomans. The swell stuck around at Praia de Santa Barbara, and unfortunately so did the onshore wind. The tricky conditions made for some frustrating heats for many, even CJ wasn’t able to get a score for the first 30 minutes of the final, while Yeomans built a solid lead. With time ticking, CJ reached into his old bag of tricks and launched a massive frontside air for a 9 to get him back in the heat, before backing that up with an 8.5 two minutes before the buzzer to claim victory.
After the win CJ talked about rebounding from his recent fall off tour:
“I want to improve on my surfing and these kids that are on tour are doing airs all the time so I wanted to pull that into my game a little more. I don’t know what it looked like but I was just trying to change stuff and mix it up.”
CJ is no stranger to the air, as one of the leaders of the aerial movement back in the Momentum II era (back when Taylor Steele still made surf videos). World champion in 2001 and perennial title contender, CJ is among the bunch of surfers on tour that are in danger of becoming out-dated. (Note that Kelly Slater is not human and thus not subject to these rules.)
Faced with young punters like Gabriel Medina and Kolohe Andino who are doing aerial variations on every wave, even well rounded surfers like CJ are forced to evolve their surfing. Despite the notable disadvantage of 32 year old knees, CJ out boosted kids young enough to be his son to claim this victory. He even beat Kolohe in the quarterfinals yesterday in onshore ramps where Kolohe would have the clear advantage in repertoire.
Keeping up with the future of surfing seems to be CJ’s focus at the moment, and rightly so, as at this point in his career it’s the way to stay relevant, unless of course he wants to take up big-wave tow-surfing. Perhaps CJ looked at how Bobby martinez handled this situation and decided that updating his surfing and winning would be much more diplomatic than spewing f-words and pointing fingers.
CJ now moves to number 29 in the world, and will need to keep himself inside that bubble through Hawaii to qualify for next year.
ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro Final
C.J. Hobgood (USA) 17.53 Def. Nate Yeomans (USA) 15.33
ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro Semi-final Results
Heat 1: Nate Yeomans (USA) 11.23 Def. Jay Quinn (NZL) 10.67
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 11.46 Def. Thiago Camarao (BRA)
ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro Quarterfinal Results
Heat 1: Nate Yeomans (USA) 14.23 Def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.77
Heat 2: Jay Quinn (NZL) 12.67 Def. Leonardo Neves (BRA) 8.87
Heat 3: Thiago Camarao (BRA) 13.56 Def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.40
Heat 4: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 14.60 Def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.94