While the rest of the world was watching in awe as Sunset Beach topped 25-foot for the annual Vans World Cup of Surfing, held on the North Shore of Oahu from November 28th-December 1st, East Coasters had their eye on one man: 34-year-old Satellite Beach, FL, native Damien Hobgood.
Sitting just outside the 2014 requalification bubble in both the ASP World Championships Tour and ASP Men’s World Rankings, Damo needed a win to safely cement a 15th consecutive year on tour. But after leading for over half of the 30-minute final, held in slightly overhead waves that looked downright playful compared to the triple-overhead-plus beasts of a couple of days before, Hobgood ceded the victory to 20-year-old Hawaiian local Ezekiel Lau, who claimed the biggest win of his career — even downing Kelly Slater in the Round of 32 in the process.
That leaves Pipeline for Damo, where he’ll need a very high finish to catapult the six spots on the WCT rankings or five spots on the Men’s World Rankings to requalify for 2014. ASP oracle Al Hunt, in an article titled “Battle for the Big Leagues,” listed Hobgood near the bottom of a list of 10 surfers who could make noise at the
Billabong Pipe Masters, which gets underway next week.
Of course, being the eternal nice guy that he is, Damo only had good things to say about Lau, whose $40,000 win put him at 35th on the ASP Men’s World Rankings — just outside the qualification bubble himself. Damo provided Lau with the customary winners’ podium champagne spray, and posed with the winner for an huge-smile Instagram shot that included the caption “Huge congrats to this Hawaiian champion @zekelau.”
So East Coasters should give thanks to Sunset Beach for giving Damien Hobgood the chance to even insert himself into a realistic 2014 requalification scenario. Now Damo will have to tame Pipeline to a tune of a probable semifinal or higher finish to really make it happen.
The best part? No matter what the end result, Damien will remain one of surfing’s most inspiring and perpetually stoked surfers. And with plans to interview both he and CJ Hobgood next month about the state of the Rightside’s competitive edge, ESM will be here to tell the full story.