012 Days, 06 Ways

After navigating two hours of roads west of San Juan, we suddenly found ourselves driving along the north shore of Puerto Rico, realizing how much it resembles O‘ahu’s North Shore. From end to end, the coast is a sandy stretch lined with tropical flora, reef breaks, beachbreaks, and wedges. The backdrop of palm trees and cliffs is eerily similar to the Pupukea Heights cliffs rising above Pipe and Sunset. But unlike Hawai‘i in the winter months, Puerto Rico’s spots are surprisingly uncrowded.

[IMAGE 1]

For two weeks in early February, Aguadilla, situated on the very Northwest corner of the Caribbean island, was base camp for the making of Globe’s new video titled Somewhere, Anywhere, Everywhere. If there were anywhere in the world to get a crew like this together, the remoteness of Aguadilla was the place: a scenic area that hosts a vast array of breaks–perfect for gathering footage. Hans Hagen, C.J. and Damien Hobgood, Luke Hitchings, Peter Mendia, and Nathan “Noodles” Webster–six different professional surfers with six different lives–somehow found time in their busy schedules to get together for the filming of this video.

Surf breaks in Puerto Rico aren’t easy to find. The roads are confusing and the conditions can be just as puzzling. Luckily for the crew, Globe teamrider/rep/Puerto Rican surf hero Juan Ashton and fellow Globe rep Ricky Luzon served as guides. They drove everyone somewhere, anywhere, everywhere, all the time–guiding us like tour directors. Between them, Juan and Ricky knew everything and everyone in Puerto Rico. Without them, our “well traveled” group would’ve headed for disaster. Both insisted on educating us on spot knowledge as well as Puerto Rican history. They’re proud of their beautiful country–proud of its surf, and most importantly, willing to show their pride off.

Puerto Ricans are that way. In every town is a statue of a soldier–a monument to sons lost in past American wars. Although it’s a U.S. territory (“organized, but unincorporated”), Puerto Rico holds an important place in American history both strategically and figuratively. From Spanish forts in San Juan to skeletons of a military past, there’s a richness to this country far beyond its abundance of surf. Aguadilla alone is littered with empty buildings and broken-down planes from an abandoned base–reminders of American tensions with the Soviet Union over Cuba in the 50s and 60s.

The wide-open expanses and proximity of Aguadilla and Rincon on the west side are like magnets for poorer citizens who look to illegally immigrate from Caribbean countries such as the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Haiti. Walk down any beach and you’ll realize it, because with every twenty-foot boat that lays tattered on miles of beaches is a story of 50 Dominicans packed like sardines waiting in the night to make a break through the heavy surf and onto Puerto Rico’s shores–unseen by border patrols. For them, the “rich” island to the south is the gateway to a better life in America. Two weeks before the crew arrived, a boat of 30 Dominicans tried landing in five-foot surf at Rincon. Fifteen drowned and washed ashore at one of Puerto Rico’s best surf spots.

[IMAGE 2]

Hans Hagen knew he had to be at Los Angeles International Airport for his flight to San Juan by five in the morning–it still didn’t stop him. Hell, Hans is an experienced traveler, nothing was going to keep him from traveling to the Caribbean for the Globe video shoot–not even going to Hollywood the night before to see some bands and gaze at all the stars. He was prepared to leave Tinseltown with only 45 minutes of sleep, and he did–he arrived just in time to make his flight. What he wasn’t prepared for is the person who sat in the seat in front of him during it.

9;The man looked like an ex-football player–older, burlier, and much larger than Hans, who isn’t too small himself. He sat in the seat ahead of Hans, constantly turning around–incredibly belligerent. After his preflight party, Hans was like an exhausted rock star and wasn’t prepared to be irritated by a fellow passenger. And for some reason or another, the annoying guy began asking question after question to a mentally dead Hans. Some of the more annoying examples included, “Can I ask you another question?” “Did you graduate college?” “Do kiss your mom before you go to bed?” Or how about, “Wait ’til you’re 30 because you’ll realize everything your mother told you was right.” It was all so random. Hans was visibly upset by this man’s actions and let him know as he switched terminals at his Chicago connection to San Juan–very unlike him, really.

After spending nine months brawling on the WCT (World Championship Tour), Nathan “Noodles” (or “Nudes”) Webster still made time to get away for the making of the video. He and Hitchings knew they were coming on this trip and made the jaunt halfway around the world to London, then Miami, and finished with a visit to Nudes’ brother who works at a five-star resort in the British West Indies. Prior to the trip, Nudes had surgery on his eyes and was resting his eyeballs–”sucking the marrow out of life.” Basically having fun without surfing. You see, Nudes likes a good time–that’s the way he looks at life. He wants to experience what he feels needs to be–basically he does things his way.

Nudes arrived in Puerto Rico pulling damaged boards from his board bag, sleeping on a floor, battling boredom when the waves blew out, and fighting mosquitos. He still wasn’t fazed–that’s his life, literally.

Collectively, 1/11th of the ASP WCT Top 44 was on this trip. Thanks to a huge streak at the Pipe Masters, Luke Hitchings worked his way back from failing to requalify for the upcoming 2003 season. You may or may not know of him because he’s not a circus act in the big show–he basically surfs clean, fast, and powerfully. He’s a quiet man if you don’t know him, but if you listen closely he’ll speak up–basically helping Noodles pass time wrecking something or someone with their collectively sharp-witted humor. They don’t hold back–at all.

Luke’s simply a cruiser with a vicious carve–easy to travel with, too. “He’s pretty much down for anything,” says Noodles. “I’ll suggest we do something, and he’s always, ‘Sure, why not? Let’s do it.’” He was damaged goods upon arrival in Puerto Rico as well. According to him, he’d been surfing his local break in Bronte, Australia when he landed on his back and tore some muscles.

[IMAGE 3]

According to Noodles, he did it bench pressing some weights. “Nudes will tell you all sorts of shit–none of it’s true,” said Luke. “I did it just surfing my home break. I was just being stupid and ended up on the rocks.” Between the two of them, you could hardly tell they were battling various physical afflictions and a nice little party bender halfway around the world–they’re pros in more ways than one.

Despite being two of the world’s most famous surfing twins, Damien and C.J. Hobgood are still two of the easiest good ol’ boys to get along with. They’re homeowners, have been featured in everything surfing, one’s recently married, and there’s that world champion thing–it doesn’t matter. They’re still the same brothers everyone knew when they were young kids making a name for themselves. Having them come to Puerto Rico made a couple days of less-than-ideal conditions that much easier.

The funny thing people seem to forget is they’re young. They literally bounce off walls when they’re not surfing. Up at the crack of dawn, they’re checking for waves while everyone else sleeps. They’re still brothers that way. Like many sets of identical twins, they have a parasitic relationship, a sort of competitiveness where they thrive off each other, whether it’s in the water or getting around. Every time one takes a wave, the other watches–all the way to the beach.

As time goes on, their careers may stay the same, but their personal lives have separated. “When we do WCTs we usually travel together,” said Damien. “Besides that, we have different sponsors now, so a lot of the trips we take are different. This is probably the first photo trip we’ve been on together in a long time.”

C.J. came to Puerto Rico fresh off his wedding and subsequent honeymoon in Las Vegas. For the entire previous month, he’d been making plans for it–surfing wasn’t in the works. He’s becoming domesticated now but still lives in the same part of Florida they grew up in. The more serious half of the siblings, he’s the one who generally seems to get business done. “It’s easy right now,” said C.J., “I’m off. It’s just when the contests aren’t on. I just try to get on some trips. It normally works out where I can do a few throughout the year. I wish I could do more, to tell you the truth, just ’cause it’s so cruisy and easy and fun.”

The last person of the crew to show up, Damien’s more outgoing and never once failed to entertain the crew. While C.J. laid groundwork at home, Damien decided to make his home in California.

Ever since the first day he arrived, Damien’s had a knack for thinking out loud. What you may think is sheer mumbling is actually “Damo” processing thoughts in his brain. He constantly seems like he’s doing an impression of Matthew McConaughey in Dazed And Confused.

Oh yeah, they definitely know how to surf. Every session, no matter what the waves are offering, Damo and his brother will make any wave look fun. Don’t let their branching lives fool you–surfing is priority number one, and they came to Puerto Rico to get down to business.

Unlike his good friends the Hobgoods, Peter Mendia doesn’t do contests–he just surfs. You see, Mr. Mendia, a.k.a. “Tiger,” has this turn. If he weren’t such a good guy, I’d say it comes from hell. You can tell he’s setting up for it when the goofy-foot starts speeding down the line and an unsuspecting bowl stares him right in the face. At Middles, the most consistent spot during the trip, the occasional left would come through and Pete somehow would wrestle it from the Hobgoods. It could be an air, but chances are it’ll be a forehand gouge that leaves graffiti on the face of every wave he can.

Pete’s a mellow guy who lives in one of the flattest places that can actually receive good waves. Hailing from Palm Beach, Florida, Pete has to keep a constant vigil for waves when he’s at home. Swells can literally last for hours, so luckily for him, the local lifeguards will call him when anything starts to show. The rest of the time it’s flat.

So when he got to Puerto Rico he was like a kid in a candy store–and Globe was filming him. Always the last to exit the water, he would’ve swum across the Caribbean just to get here for some of the blown out, smallish surf we experienced some days. “I think I still like surfing,” said Pete. “I don’t care if there’s someone shooting. I can’t go in if I fall–I feel that much better if I make a wave and I go in.”

He was in Puerto Rico a week before we arrived, but he broke his boards and had to fly home before returning with Globe. Mr. Mendia is also on tg people seem to forget is they’re young. They literally bounce off walls when they’re not surfing. Up at the crack of dawn, they’re checking for waves while everyone else sleeps. They’re still brothers that way. Like many sets of identical twins, they have a parasitic relationship, a sort of competitiveness where they thrive off each other, whether it’s in the water or getting around. Every time one takes a wave, the other watches–all the way to the beach.

As time goes on, their careers may stay the same, but their personal lives have separated. “When we do WCTs we usually travel together,” said Damien. “Besides that, we have different sponsors now, so a lot of the trips we take are different. This is probably the first photo trip we’ve been on together in a long time.”

C.J. came to Puerto Rico fresh off his wedding and subsequent honeymoon in Las Vegas. For the entire previous month, he’d been making plans for it–surfing wasn’t in the works. He’s becoming domesticated now but still lives in the same part of Florida they grew up in. The more serious half of the siblings, he’s the one who generally seems to get business done. “It’s easy right now,” said C.J., “I’m off. It’s just when the contests aren’t on. I just try to get on some trips. It normally works out where I can do a few throughout the year. I wish I could do more, to tell you the truth, just ’cause it’s so cruisy and easy and fun.”

The last person of the crew to show up, Damien’s more outgoing and never once failed to entertain the crew. While C.J. laid groundwork at home, Damien decided to make his home in California.

Ever since the first day he arrived, Damien’s had a knack for thinking out loud. What you may think is sheer mumbling is actually “Damo” processing thoughts in his brain. He constantly seems like he’s doing an impression of Matthew McConaughey in Dazed And Confused.

Oh yeah, they definitely know how to surf. Every session, no matter what the waves are offering, Damo and his brother will make any wave look fun. Don’t let their branching lives fool you–surfing is priority number one, and they came to Puerto Rico to get down to business.

Unlike his good friends the Hobgoods, Peter Mendia doesn’t do contests–he just surfs. You see, Mr. Mendia, a.k.a. “Tiger,” has this turn. If he weren’t such a good guy, I’d say it comes from hell. You can tell he’s setting up for it when the goofy-foot starts speeding down the line and an unsuspecting bowl stares him right in the face. At Middles, the most consistent spot during the trip, the occasional left would come through and Pete somehow would wrestle it from the Hobgoods. It could be an air, but chances are it’ll be a forehand gouge that leaves graffiti on the face of every wave he can.

Pete’s a mellow guy who lives in one of the flattest places that can actually receive good waves. Hailing from Palm Beach, Florida, Pete has to keep a constant vigil for waves when he’s at home. Swells can literally last for hours, so luckily for him, the local lifeguards will call him when anything starts to show. The rest of the time it’s flat.

So when he got to Puerto Rico he was like a kid in a candy store–and Globe was filming him. Always the last to exit the water, he would’ve swum across the Caribbean just to get here for some of the blown out, smallish surf we experienced some days. “I think I still like surfing,” said Pete. “I don’t care if there’s someone shooting. I can’t go in if I fall–I feel that much better if I make a wave and I go in.”

He was in Puerto Rico a week before we arrived, but he broke his boards and had to fly home before returning with Globe. Mr. Mendia is also on the C.J. plan. He’s been married nearly two years–he and his wife were expecting their first child in two months when he traveled south with Globe. Safely put, he was surfing his brains out because he was in the calm before the maternity storm.

What happens to his surf time afterward is anybody’s guess. “She’ll be telling me to go on trips–I hope,” says Pete.

on the C.J. plan. He’s been married nearly two years–he and his wife were expecting their first child in two months when he traveled south with Globe. Safely put, he was surfing his brains out because he was in the calm before the maternity storm.

What happens to his surf time afterward is anybody’s guess. “She’ll be telling me to go on trips–I hope,” says Pete.