The Life And Times Of A Marketed Man

“Sometimes I wonder what other people think of me. And then the other side of me is like, “Who cares? Just do whatever.”

“The words surfer and celebrity just don’t go together well for me.”

“To show my emotions of someone getting to me is not something I want to show everyone. Then it feels like they’ve won.”

“I’m not going to let photos, contests, or anything else control my emotions.”

“I always like traveling with miscellaneous people because it keeps things different.”

“With doing airs and stuff, a lot of people are now starting to think that it’s too easy.”

“Every time I go out, I mainly try to work on airs, because I’m not that good at them.”

“Your weakness is what you’re going to go try.”

“When I read a book, or when I read an interview, I’ll read it to make myself more knowledgeable about the world¿to be more knowledgeable about something.”

Everybody has a story. When we decided to do an interview with World Tour warrior Damien Hobgood, we needed to decide our angle. An angle is a path that we as a magazine try to follow to make you, the reader, understand and be entertained by the interview. We thought of a few different angles we could use: One was the whole hillbilly thing. Since Damien is from Florida and he talks with a Southern accent, we thought that putting him in overalls and having him walk around a field barefoot would be funny. But it just seemed kind of stupid, so we went back to the drawing board. Joel came up with this idea of turning Damien into a cardboard cut-out and setting him up in random situations. The idea sounded interesting, but we wondered how it would fit with Damien’s personality and style. We mulled the idea over for a while, and an underlying theme reared its beautiful head¿our cardboard cut-out idea morphed from blah into bonafide genius. As a top-ranked WCT surfer, Damien’s a figure of marketability for his sponsors. Basically, the reason he gets to be a high-paid, famous pro surfer is because his sponsors need to use him to sell their product. Hence, the cardboard cutout idea. When Damien came in to do the shoot, he was a little bit tired from the day before, when he’d sat at a table for three hours signing autographs in a mall twenty-five miles from the beach. He wasn’t complaining or anything, but it only solidified our idea. Are major corporations marketing surfers, or are they marketing humans? Are surfers just cardboard cutouts made to be put in store windows to sell goods to hungry consumers? Let’s ask Damien and see what he thinks about being a marketed man.

Do you ever feel like you’re merchandise, or that you’re being marketed?Yeah. I’m supposed to be, I guess.

How does it feel when you go to autograph signings? How do those things fit into your job description?It’s part of my job. It doesn’t bother me too bad, though. Sometimes I’ll be at a surf contest and want to surf right away, but I’ll have to do a signing. That kind of sucks because all I want to do is go surfing. It’s hard sometimes.

Do you feel like you get paid to surf, or do you get paid to be Damien Hobgood?I get paid to surf, I think.

How does your personality go with your whole sponsorship thing? It goes pretty good, I guess. It’s hard to see myself the way other people see me. I have a perception of how other surfers are, how we’re portrayed, marketed, and stuff like that. Sometimes I wonder what other people think of me. And then the other side of me is like, “Who cares? Just do whatever. Do what you do, and whatever happens, happens.”

Has there ever been an ad that came out with you, and you were just like, “What is that?”Yeah, of course. I’m sure everyone says that. An ad or a photo comes out and you’re like, “That photo is lame.” You hope people don’t think you do turns like that.

Do you ever wish that you could see every photo or ad of yourself that’s about to come out so you can okay it?Not really. It’d be too much of a hassle¿re crap that I have to worry about.

Let’s talk a little bit about being on the Tour. Are there any times when you’re like, “F¿k this! I want to go home!”?Not really. A lot of people on tour get like that, but lately with there not being so many contests, it’s different. Plus, the contests now have way better waves. We go to really good surf spots, so sometimes, I want to stay longer. Everyone’s going to contests a lot earlier now¿people were in J-Bay two weeks before the South African leg of the Tour even started. Even in Tahiti this year, a bunch of guys were there two weeks before the Teahupoo contest started. The waves there are crazy, so it’s worth it.

Where’s your favorite place to go to on the Tour? What places do you look for to do every single year? Definitely, Tahiti and J-Bay. Those are the two main spots.

There’ve been complaints that people on the Tour don’t do enough airs, or they don’t push their turns all the way through. Do you see the level of surfing increasing? How do you see it right now?I definitely see it getting better. I think it still has a ways to go, but it’s definitely getting a lot better. Now, you really only have to concentrate on a couple of turns¿just do one big turn, and bust some crazy air and you’ll get like a seven. It’s definitely getting there. Sometimes when things are finally there, surfers will revert back and get a little off-track. As long as the Tour surfers tell the judges that this is the way we want it, it’ll happen. The judges are pretty on it.

How does being on tour affect your relationship with friends and girlfriends? How does the constant traveling affect you?It definitely affects it. I really haven’t known anything else, though. Ever since I was thirteen, all I wanted to do was surf other places. I’ve always been going to different spots, so I have my friends I usually travel with on the road, and I have friends at home. It’s been good. I think I balance it out pretty good. I love surfing, so it’s not like it’s really a disadvantage.

Do you feel like the Tour is your life, or do you feel like your home is your life?Both. I think surfing is my life. I love to surf, so that means I get to go to contests, make some money, and surf perfect waves with only one other guy out. So it’s worth it.

Some people say that surfers disappear on the Tour. What do you think about that? It can easily happen. Sometimes I feel like you have to try and balance it out. Should I go to this contest? Should I go on a photo trip? Like I said, you try to balance it out. Now with a lot of the contest sites located where there’re really good waves, it’s a lot easier. You can still get photos while you’re competing. You can go to a place, and if the contest isn’t on that day, you can go do both.

How does it make you feel when you see an unknown kid doing something crazy in a magazine as opposed to someone on the Tour who’s earned it?I think, if it’s a good shot, then it’s insane. If it’s an average shot, then it kind of makes me wonder. I’m stoked when I see kids in magazines, as long as they love to surf. If it’s a kid who’s like, “Surfing’s okay,” and goes out to shoot in front of the cameras and doesn’t really surf for the right reasons, then it bums me out. If you see a kid who loves to surf, is always surfing, and happens to do a sick move in front of a camera and gets a shot, then I think he deserves it because he loves to surf. I see kids nowadays who are just like, “I’m over surfing. Some guy is going to shoot, so I’m gonna surf,” and they go out, do a move, get the shot, and that’s all they surf for. That mentality really bums me out. It should be reserved for the people who really love to surf, because it will allow them to do something they love to do¿longer. If the guy doesn’t really love to do it, then it’s just something he’s doing so he can smoke more weed or something laughs.

Do you ever feel famous?No.

You never feel like a celebrity? I’m sure you’re one in Huntington Beach.It’s too hard. The words surfer and celebrity just don’t go together well for me. It’s too unique. I guess you could say Kelly Slater’s a celebrity. We’re just like skateboarders. I don’t really see them as celebrities. Maybe Tony Hawk, but that’s about it.

Do fans ever intrude on you when you lose a heat?If you let it get in your head, I guess it could. It doesn’t really bother me. I laugh at it¿to really let something like that get in your head is ridiculous, even if I wasn’t judged fairly or I kinda got robbed. Do you think I’m going to let some judges or fans on the beach ruin my fun at surfing? It’s not going to happen. I just laugh about it. I love when I can just be like, “Shit, I’m surfing right now.” This is what I want to do, so how can I be bummed?

What do you think about when you see someone flipping out after they just lost a heat?I get like that sometimes¿I’m on the borderline. I always give myself a little reality check. I can’t let people get to me like that. To show my emotions of someone getting to me is not something I want to show everyone. Then it feels like they’ve won. Let’s say I was judged unfairly, and I was throwing things around like I was really bummed, then the judges would feel like they’ve succeeded. So I don’t let things get to me like that. If I had fun in the water and I didn’t embarrass myself in the lineup, then I’m stoked. I’m not going to let photos, contests, or anything else control my emotions.

What’s your ideal travel situation? Who would it be with, and where would you be going?I definitely like traveling with Ben Bourgeois, my brother C.J., and a bunch of other guys¿it all depends on where I’m going. If I was going to Tahiti, I’d like to be surfing with Andy or Bruce Irons, and Cory Lopez¿guys like that. They know how to ride Teahupoo so good, it makes me surf better. If I was going to J-Bay, I’d want to be traveling with Joel Parkinson, because he knows how to ride that wave so good, I can learn from him. I always like traveling with miscellaneous people because it keeps things different. I guess I’m lucky in my job, and I get to do that. Sometimes people say that work’s slow. You know, you go to work and see the same people every day. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day. You’ve got to mix it up: Travel with different people to see what they’ve been doing, what boards they’re getting, and how they approach surfing. If I was going to Indo, I’d love to be traveling with Occy because he can do the gnarliest turns ever.

Have you ever been in any scary situations in foreign countries?When we went to Indo about six years ago, some guys there were trying to regulate and act like they owned it. This one time the Indonesian military came out in the lineup with machine guns and told us that we couldn’t surf. That was a little weird, but nothing too serious.

What do you think about the crowds in Indo? Do you feel like the surfing world is getting smaller, or are the surfers just increasing?I look at it like it’s just part of the world. Whether you live in your little country’s hometown or whatever, it’s getting bigger. No matter where you live, buildings are going up left and right. You’re like, “I remember when it was just me and a couple other neighbors in my neighborhood.” Now it’s just like a big town. You can’t have the entire world growing and not think that surfing’s not going to grow, too. It’s the way the world is right now¿the way it’s evolving. It’s just part of the times. It doesn’t bum me out, though, because I know that’s the way it is. I’ve heard people say, “Man, I remember in ’69 when I used surf here by myself¿blah, blah, blah.” And I’m like, “Have you taken a look at the world lately? Everything’s growing, buddy. It’s not just affecting you and your spot.”

What do you want to do after surfing? Obviously, you have a lot more years left in you, but do you ever look forbrity? I’m sure you’re one in Huntington Beach.It’s too hard. The words surfer and celebrity just don’t go together well for me. It’s too unique. I guess you could say Kelly Slater’s a celebrity. We’re just like skateboarders. I don’t really see them as celebrities. Maybe Tony Hawk, but that’s about it.

Do fans ever intrude on you when you lose a heat?If you let it get in your head, I guess it could. It doesn’t really bother me. I laugh at it¿to really let something like that get in your head is ridiculous, even if I wasn’t judged fairly or I kinda got robbed. Do you think I’m going to let some judges or fans on the beach ruin my fun at surfing? It’s not going to happen. I just laugh about it. I love when I can just be like, “Shit, I’m surfing right now.” This is what I want to do, so how can I be bummed?

What do you think about when you see someone flipping out after they just lost a heat?I get like that sometimes¿I’m on the borderline. I always give myself a little reality check. I can’t let people get to me like that. To show my emotions of someone getting to me is not something I want to show everyone. Then it feels like they’ve won. Let’s say I was judged unfairly, and I was throwing things around like I was really bummed, then the judges would feel like they’ve succeeded. So I don’t let things get to me like that. If I had fun in the water and I didn’t embarrass myself in the lineup, then I’m stoked. I’m not going to let photos, contests, or anything else control my emotions.

What’s your ideal travel situation? Who would it be with, and where would you be going?I definitely like traveling with Ben Bourgeois, my brother C.J., and a bunch of other guys¿it all depends on where I’m going. If I was going to Tahiti, I’d like to be surfing with Andy or Bruce Irons, and Cory Lopez¿guys like that. They know how to ride Teahupoo so good, it makes me surf better. If I was going to J-Bay, I’d want to be traveling with Joel Parkinson, because he knows how to ride that wave so good, I can learn from him. I always like traveling with miscellaneous people because it keeps things different. I guess I’m lucky in my job, and I get to do that. Sometimes people say that work’s slow. You know, you go to work and see the same people every day. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day. You’ve got to mix it up: Travel with different people to see what they’ve been doing, what boards they’re getting, and how they approach surfing. If I was going to Indo, I’d love to be traveling with Occy because he can do the gnarliest turns ever.

Have you ever been in any scary situations in foreign countries?When we went to Indo about six years ago, some guys there were trying to regulate and act like they owned it. This one time the Indonesian military came out in the lineup with machine guns and told us that we couldn’t surf. That was a little weird, but nothing too serious.

What do you think about the crowds in Indo? Do you feel like the surfing world is getting smaller, or are the surfers just increasing?I look at it like it’s just part of the world. Whether you live in your little country’s hometown or whatever, it’s getting bigger. No matter where you live, buildings are going up left and right. You’re like, “I remember when it was just me and a couple other neighbors in my neighborhood.” Now it’s just like a big town. You can’t have the entire world growing and not think that surfing’s not going to grow, too. It’s the way the world is right now¿the way it’s evolving. It’s just part of the times. It doesn’t bum me out, though, because I know that’s the way it is. I’ve heard people say, “Man, I remember in ’69 when I used surf here by myself¿blah, blah, blah.” And I’m like, “Have you taken a look at the world lately? Everything’s growing, buddy. It’s not just affecting you and your spot.”

What do you want to do after surfing? Obviously, you have a lot more years left in you, but do you ever look forward?Yeah, I always try to look and see what I’ll be doing when I’m not surfing. I definitely want to be involved with surfing. It’s going to be a job involved in the surf industry. I love surfing, and if I’m working around it, then chances are I’m going to have a surf-related job.

What do you think comes first, style or tricks?Nothing comes first. I just try to balance it all out. It depends on what mood I’m in, or where I was surfing at. Obviously, if I’m surfing Huntington Beach, then I’ll be way more into tricks than style. If I’m surfing J-Bay, then it’s going to be about style with not as much focus on tricks. A lot of times it has to depend on the wave and the board. If I take out a smaller board and it doesn’t carve as good, then I’m going to try tricks on it. If I have a board that’s a little bit bigger and doesn’t like to get out of the water, then I’m probably going to end up doing more carves.

In the future, do you think surfers will be linking crazy tricks with turns and style? How do you feel surfing is progressing? As someone said before, I think it’s going to go toward more switch-stance stuff¿especially with tow-in riding. I think it’s going to be a lot of switching stuff around, even with a lot of the airs. Bust an air, and throw your board around just because people are getting so gnarly nowadays. With doing airs and stuff, a lot of people are now starting to think that it’s too easy.

When do you think people will start taking switch-stance stuff seriously? Once people start doing it to where you can’t tell the difference, that’s when people will take it serious.

You’ve seen in it in skateboarding. Sometimes you can’t even tell whether someone is riding switch or regular. That’s the way it’s going to be. I think people who grow up surfing will do it more, so when they get at the proper age, it’s not going to matter that much. I think it won’t happen for a while because the kids aren’t doing it now. There’re certain waves you go to¿if you’re frontside or backside, you have the advantage. If it’s a fast, little right, you can do more turns backside¿you can pop it up more. You’re stoked if there’s a certain kind of wave and you’re goofy-footed, and you have a regular-foot in the lead. There’re definitely some advantages. So, I think when people really start mastering the switch stuff, they’re not going to know which way the surfer’s going¿things could get gnarly.

Do you ever go out with a specific goal in mind? Like, “Today, I think I’ll work on my frontside 360 airs.”?Every time I go out, I mainly try to work on airs, because I’m not that good at them. You can always go higher. So that’s what I’ve been trying a lot of. It all depends what your weakness is. Your weakness is what you’re going to go try.

Have you ever done tow-ins? Yeah, I think it’s insane. It’s the best. There’re so many surf spots that you really can’t surf unless you have a jet ski, so it’s opened up so much more area for people to surf. Now surfers are getting to ride perfect unridden waves, or waves that are really hard to get to. Jet skis are allowing everyone to get to them. It’s insane. I think it’s real fun. You get to catch a lot of waves.

So you’ve done it a couple times?Yeah, but nothing really too big. I used to do it at my house in Florida where it’s always flat. There’s not enough speed to do what you want to do, so you get a jet ski and tow-in to practice airs.

Have you ever surfed any of the wave pools?The Typhoon Lagoon wave pool in Orlando, Florida.

How do you think it’d be to have a wave pool on the Tour? You’d have the same section over and over every time. Do you think people would start doing more crazy shit?I don’t really want to think about that stuff. What’s so unique about surfing is that you adapt to what the wave is doing at the time. With wave pools, you’re taking that element away from surfing. I guess if someone really wanted to make one for the Tour, they could do it, but I don’t really care about it.

Do you see yourself as a World title contender? Yeah, of course. I don’t enter a cont