For our January 2014 issue, we kicked off the new year with an in-depth look at the state of East Coast competitive surfing, including an interview with World Tour veterans and dedicated Rightside mentors CJ & Damien Hobgood in which they shared their insight with the next generation by answering 20 of our toughest questions about the World Tour. Here's the first little snip-it to wet your whistle, and be sure to check out the new issue in its entirety for much more coverage of East Coast competition...
1) What do you think it really takes to be on tour these days?
CJ: You’ve got to be really talented, that’s for sure. You have to do everything just a little better than the next person. And one of the big parts, in looking at the really good people, is that they put their own spin on things in a way where it looks so good that everyone else wants to do what they’re doing. The best surfers are able to think a little differently as far as what they want to do on a wave or how they want to execute a game plan to go out and win a heat, and they do it in a way where everyone else follows their lead.
Damien: It takes a lot of things, but I think love of the sport is one of the main things, because when you love something so much, you’re going to push yourself. You’re going to try to be the all-around best and surf all different types of waves, and when you don’t make it the first couple years or whatever, your love is going to keep pushing you and keep you going for it. Because even if you are the best surfer, you can still have some bad months and some hurdles that are hard to overcome, but if you love it so much, it will be easy.
2) How can East Coast up-and-comers know if they have it in them?
Damien: The best way is to give it a try. CJ and I didn’t really know in the beginning that we had what it takes. We just knew that it was fun and it was what we wanted to do.
CJ: I think there’s a realization at some point that everyone has, good or bad, when they’ve been competing for a while. For me, it was when me and Damo were around 17 or 18, and we got to a point doing pro contests where we felt like Andy and Bruce Irons were really some of the only guys that were ahead of us. And we knew that gave us a good chance of making it. So I think there’s a point where kids say to themselves, “I know who the best kids in the world are, how do I stack up against them?”
3) What do you think were the key differences between you and all the other surfers out there that helped you make the tour?
CJ: There was a point for me where I thought to myself, “I feel like maybe I am quicker on my toes and my instincts are a little better when the pressure is on.” You start to realize the gifts that you have or don’t have. Then there’s also just a brutal honesty you have to have with yourself to achieve your goals. There are things in your life that you have to fix to achieve what you want to, and that just takes a bit of honesty. So it’s all of those things.
Damien: For me, I think it was just how much I loved the sport. That’s all I ever thought about. When I’m around waves or when I’m not around waves, I’m still thinking about it, so that was a huge help. There was a little bit of blessing too. I don’t think I’m the most naturally talented person, but I’ve tried to make the most of what I have.
4) What are the best aspects of life on tour?
CJ: I have always had trouble finding a sport and a lifestyle that’s better. Surfing has been good for me in terms of being a healthy lifestyle, letting me see the world, and being kind on my body for the most part. I’m getting older, but I’m not limping around or in chronic pain. And in other sports, you can be such a crazy star that you’re not able to go anywhere, so your quality of life sucks. I can go anywhere I want and not get hounded, and I still get paid doing something I love to do. I’ve been able to support a family, too. All those things are so cool.
Damien: I’d say, obviously, the lifestyle. It’s pretty stress-free. It’s really healthy. You’re waking up and going surfing every morning, being able to surf really good waves that you wouldn’t be able to surf if you were at home. Those are the main things.
5) Are there things that you’ve had to sacrifice to be where you are, and has it been worth it?
Damien: There’s always a sacrifice with anything you do. There are things that I’ve had to sacrifice, but I don’t really look at it like that. I look at them as blessings, really, because without some sort of friction or hardship, things aren’t as enjoyable. For me, it’s being away from my family, but everyone has to be away from their family when they’re at work, so it’s not a bad thing. It makes me enjoy my family so much more when I am with them.
CJ: The hard part is, like with any job, you’re sacrificing by being away from your family. But everyone has to find that balance between their business life and their family life. It’s not that bad, but it’s one of the worse parts of it. It’s 100 percent been worth it. Really, when you do something that you love, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.