It’s fair to say that the final day of the Oakley Pro Bali was a bit anticlimactic. Two of eventual champion Joel Parkinson’s heats were so slow that his opponents — Taj Burrow in the Quarterfinals and Josh Kerr in the Semifinals — were restricted to 3.13 and 5.33 heat totals, respectively, after each had won previous heats with near-perfect masterpieces. The barrel shootouts so prevalent each morning were reduced to onshore hack-fests in the Semifinals and Final. And all that talk about Keramas producing some of the most progressive World Tour surfing ever? Well, aside from John John Florence’s historic alley-oop in Round Three (and near-make of a backflip in Round Five), this contest was won on the strength of deep, technical barrel riding and buttery frontside carves.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. A few other storylines stood out, as well: Josh Kerr’s first perfect 10 in WCT competition. Michel Bourez’s first WCT final. And Nat Young’s astounding performance both in this contest and so far this year. The Santa Cruz towhead is currently ranked 6th — ahead of perennial world title threat Adriano De Souza, fellow greenhorn Sebastian Zietz, and last year’s young standouts Florence and Gabriel Medina.
But East Coasters bemoaning the fact that Kelly Slater slipped from his #1 spot atop the ASP World Title rankings, or that Damien Hobgood was underscored in his Round Three sizzler against Parko, or that CJ couldn’t find a final wave to contest Josh Kerr in their supremely matched Quarterfinal, can take heart in one thing: CJ’s glorious speech delivered during Mick Fanning and Michel Bourez’s semifinal bout.
It’s the kind of honest talk that’s rarely seen in the pro surfing world. Yes, it’s something that CJ has always been known for — but with 15 years of Tour life under his belt, the man is turning into a straight-up philosophical sage, even as his performance levels continue to hover right around that of the youthful vanguard. So for the sake of aspiring pro surfers, wide-eyed groms, skeptical parents, and potential team managers (the @sponsorCJ campaign should be on all of your minds right now) everywhere, we produce that speech in its entirety below.
Announcer Ronnie Blakey: … So you’ve made a really solid return to the Top 10 this year, CJ.
CJ Hobgood: It kind of blows me away. I’m just super blessed to even have these opportunities to surf against these guys. Today was one of those days where the waves are so good — heck, it’s one of these contests where the waves are so good — that you just want to surf another heat, you know? It is about winning and losing, but you just want to get back out there. I’m so stoked for Nat [Young], too, holding it down for the goofies. He’s really the story here — a rookie coming onto the tour… Have you guys found a chink in his armor? Because I haven’t.
RB: Not at all. Not so far. He hasn’t been knocked out in the second round of any contest, which is really impressive for a rookie… And he doesn’t seem rattled by big names.
CJ: Not at all. Even at Snapper in that heat he lost against Mick he put on a great performance. As goofies, we’re so pumped. I was talking to Joel [Parkinson] and he was like, “Hey, good job!” And I said, “Hey, you know what? I’ve been on tour for a long time, and I can’t remember a contest where I could just go out and get righthand barrels. We get ‘em at Supers every once in a while during J-Bay, but [here], a lot of heats — especially if you had them in morning — you were going out there and you were hunting barrels. For a goofyfooter going backhand, you don’t get those opportunities much. So I’m thankful we got waves. Hopefully we can get more waves on tour where the goofies can stand in some barrels with no hands.
RB: You’re the third longest serving member of the World Tour, CJ, surfing your 15th year…
CJ: Don’t tell anyone that.
RB: But you’ve put yourself in position for a Top 10 finish — what’s the goal? How long do you think you’ll stay on tour?
CJ: Great question. I don’t know if you guys are watching Mick on this wave. Mick, gosh — I’m not answering your question. Can I talk about Mick right now? I think about Mick at Snapper and I think he’s finally got a heat here where he can get barreled. It’s kind of interesting to see how he pushed it on that one and got deep, even though he’s been out of rhythm. Michel [Bourez] has had more heats with barrels, and it seems like he’s just picking and choosing ‘em better. He knows when to get on his horse and know when to stall. Here goes Michel, I don’t know… oh yeah, it’s backing off a little bit. Great barrel. Oh ho ho! That was sick! These guys are both doing crazy turns on the end. You guys talk — keep talking, bro!
RB: Just answer that question for us. How long are you going to stick this out? This is looking like one of your best campaigns in a long time.
CJ: I don’t even know. Honestly, just to even be here at this point… I thought in Fiji, “If I could win this contest, it’d be great to go out on a win and never come back.” I don’t know if my wife would allow me to do that. But I’m not going to lie — those thoughts are in my head. I probably just have to push ‘em back down. A lot of it has been faith-based. I can think back to [the Quiksilver Pro in] New York, when I went back to the hotel and cried for a while. But they were tears of joy, you know? I felt like “Hey, I had a good run.” So I don’t know what I feel now, man. I want to support my family; I want to be around for my kids. But God’s got me here. I yell at him every day and say, “Dude, why don’t you just take me off this tour? I don’t know if I want to still do this.” But he’s given me the gift to surf, and it feels natural when I go out there with no pressure to do this or that. It’s a weird point — people are saying, “You’re 8th [in the rankings], you moved up…” Honestly, I would just really like to provide for my family. That’s about as far as it goes at this point. And to win [laughs].
What more do you need, folks? True class, true grit, true knowledge, and true sportsmanship, all wrapped up in a talented, hardworking, and eternally humble package. Stay tuned, because if we can get CJ in the ESM office next week when he returns home to Central Florida, we’re gonna drop another class-act chat with Ceej that hopefully goes even more in-depth into this true ambassador for East Coast integrity.