CJ Hobgood (USA) today clinched the 2001 ASP World Championship (WCT) crown on the sand at Sunset Beach. Despite being eliminated during round two this morning, all eight (8) other world title contenders also failed to advance through the day’s competition carnage, creating an unbeatable advantage for the Floridian.
Epic surf in the 8-12 ft (3-4m) range persisted throughout the day, with blue skies and the offshore winds creating a picturesque scene.
Hobgood, 22, rode the emotional roller coaster today. After watching 1999 world champ and current #2 Mark Occhilupo (Aus) lose to Ben Bourgeois (USA) this morning, and then Van’s Triple Crown of Surfing leader and ratings #6 Andy Irons (Haw) be eliminated by Renan Rocha (Brz) the following heat, the Floridian faced what he knew would be one his toughest challenges in Rip Curl Cup Trials winner Myles Padaca (Haw).
The Hawaiian trailed in the close match until the final seconds, but after CJ lost priority paddling for a wave he never surfed, Padaca was able to swing into the last wave of the clash, secure more than the 2.32 points he required, and cause another shock elimination. At this point there were still six contenders remaining, and while they all needed semi-final or better results in this US$250,000 tournament to overtake Hobgood’s lead, no one expected things to unfold quite as they did.
In what proved to be an amazing succession of upsets, 2000 world champion and current #8 Sunny Garcia (Haw) bowed out the next heat to 2001 World Qualifying Series (WQS) champion elect and wildcard entrant Mick Fanning (Aus). The Australian posted both the day’s best single wave score of 9.5, as well as the highest combined total of 23.9 points to convincingly advance.
Current #3 Cory Lopez (USA) was then eliminated by former world #2 Shane Beschen (USA) in their decider, ending a brilliant year for the 24 year old. Taylor Knox (USA) was next to carry the world title pressure, holding the best chance of passing Hobgood on the ratings with his #4 position. Against Russell Winter (UK) he was unable to catch more than one scoring ride (6.5) during the entire 25-minute clash, which wasn’t enough compared to the two scoring waves his opponent managed for a low total of 12.4 out of a possible 30 points.
Shane Powell (Aus), rated #7, faced fellow Australian Mick Lowe in the final heat of round two, but wasn’t able to do much more than Knox. Powell secured a total of only 7.05 points on his two rides, and became the seventh contender, including Hobgood, to have his Rip Curl Cup campaign ended. Jake Paterson (Aus) and Bourgeois were all that remained leading into the three heats of round three scheduled to run this afternoon, after they had survived their earlier matches.
Paterson, 28, looked to be in firing form against Kalani Robb (Haw), laying down plenty of his trademark forehand carves and snaps in the pocket, but his opponent clawed back and took the lead. A crucial late drop into a huge wave could have made the difference for the current #5 had he made it, but as it was, Robb progressed.
Hobgood then watched, surround by friends, family, fellow competitors, media and spectators alike, as close friend Bourgeois dominated the sole thorn in his world title side, ratings #9 Danny Wills (Aus). As the announcers counted down the final seconds, the sound of cheering filled the air, and CJ Hobgood officially became the 2001 ASP world champion.
“I don’t even know how I feel right now,” began an overwhelmed Hobgood, on stage once all cheering had subsided somewhat. “I was getting ready to go surf at Pipe, thinking whatever happens, happens, and then they (ASP) told me I should probably come back down here. I was just thinking how bad I’ve been doing this year in Hawaii. I didn’t do well at Haleiwa, and then I was crying inside when I lost today, but now I’m crying for joy (laughs).
“To have him (Bourgeois) helping to decide my fate is something I couldn’t even think of,” he continued, referring to his friend. “I owe him a lot. He took down ‘Occy’ earlier and then he just took down ‘Willsy’. I don’t think I could ever repay him (laughs).
“This year was kind of a little weird and everything (referring to the events of September 11 and the cancellation of the European leg of the WCT), so I just hope I can go out there and do it again and show everyone that I’m for real. I just want to go out and show everyone that I’m worthy of the honor.
“If you were to ask me this morning if all nine contenders were going to lose, I would have bet a world title that it wasn’t going to happen, and it happened. That’s Sunset, and it’s a crazy place. Hawaii is crazy. It can beat you down, and make you feel like the best person in the world.”
In winning the 2001 WCT, Hobgood becomes the first in 26 years to do so without actually claiming a rated event title the same season. Peter Townend (Aus), who won professional surfing’s original crown back in 1976, is the only other to do so. ‘PT’ was actually on hand to witness today’s historic proceedings, and offered the following:
“He joins a special club,” said Townend, when asked about the outcome. “In a world title race it’s not about the events you do and the events you win, you’ve got to be there every week, and you’ve got to be in every heat, trying to win as many as you can. Today we saw it in the Sunset massacre (laughs). It took them out and ‘Ceej’ had put the points on the board and that’s what it’s about.”
Bourgeois, 23, who played a pivotal role in Hobgood’s win today, actually dislocated his shoulder free surfing yesterday and is still on the verge of failing to re-qualify for the 2002 WCT. After eliminating both Occhilupo and Wills, however, and with so many top rated surfers now eliminated, his chances continued to improve.
“I’m feeling alright,” said the always-casual Bourgeois. “I dislocated my shoulder yesterday, so it’s super sore and I couldn’t paddle properly.
“I’m just going to take it heat by heat and see how it goes,” he continued. “There are a lot of guys who can double qualify, so I can maybe get through the WQS. We’ll see, but I’m going to give it my best.”
Also of note today was CJ’s twin brother Damien, who surfed a brilliant last wave to eliminate Nathan Hedge (Aus) in round two. Should Damien now reach the final of the Rip Curl Cup, he will actually jump up the ratings and finish runner-up to CJ. He will have to beat wildcard Fanning first, however, in the second heat tomorrow morning.
Competition is scheduled to begin at 8am (local time).
Official Results of the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach Round Three H1:
Kalani Robb (Haw) 20.05 defeats Jake Paterson* (Aus) 18.25
H2: Ben Bourgeois (USA) 14.75 defeats Daniel Wills* (Aus) 6.6
H3: Renan Rocha (Brz) 16.15 defeats Fabio Gouveia (Brz) 12.9
H1: Kalani Robb (Haw) 15.35 defeats Pat O’Connell (USA) 14.6
H2: Jake Paterson (Aus) 16.85 defeats Beau Emerton (Aus) 12.15
H3: Danny Wills (Aus) 13.75 defeats Greg Emslie (SAfr) 13.4
H4: Ben Bourgeois (USA) 11.6 defeats Mark Occhilupo* (Aus) 9.5
H5: Renan Rocha (Brz) 18.9 defeats Andy Irons (Brz) 18.9
H6: Fabio Gouveia (Brz) 11.75 defeats Shea Lopez (USA) 11.6
H7: Trent Munro (Aus) 12.55 defeats Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 11.65
H8: Myles Padaca (Haw) 15.35 defeats CJ Hobgood (USA) 13.9
H9: Mick Fanning (Aus) 23.9 defeats Sunny Garcia* (Haw) 11.75
H10: Damien Hobgood (USA) 18.45 defeats Nathan Hedge (Aus) 15.05
H11: Luke Egan (Aus) 18.0 defeats Armando Daltro (Brz) 9.55
H12: Peterson Rosa (Brz) 13.5 defeats Taj Burrow (Aus) 12.95
H13: Shane Beschen (USA) 19.5 defeats Cory Lopez* (USA) 11.65
H14: Richie Lovett (Aus) 17.95 defeats Neco Padaratz (Brz) 11.9
H15: Russell Winter (UK) 12.4 defeats Taylor Knox* (USA) 6.5
H16: Michael Lowe (Aus) 15.1 defeats Shane Powell* (Aus) 7.05
* Heat loss eliminates surfer’s chance of becoming 2001 ASP champ.
Log back on to TransWorldSURF.com later today for our exlusive video recap of the Rip Curl Cup.