• subtitle: CJ Hobgood On His Heats With Adriano De Souza In Fiji, Volcom’s Impressive Efforts, And The Potential Of John John Florence And Gabriel Medina

Written by  Nick McGregor
Wednesday, 6/27/12

In the second installment of our recent conversation with Central Florida superstar CJ Hobgood, we pressed the normally nicest-human-on-the-planet into letting it all hang out about his feisty two heats with Adriano De Souza at the Volcom Fiji Pro. CJ also had plenty of praise for Volcom’s efforts at bringing the World Tour back to Tavarua, along with the future prospects of fast-rising ASP stars John John Florence and Gabriel Medina. Read below and stay tuned on Friday for the final stop on CJ’s Tour Of Duty.

CJ on his wave-starved three-man Round Four Volcom Fiji Pro heat with Adriano De Souza and Julian Wilson: “In that heat, Adriano had top priority, which Julian and I were OK with. We got one restart and were looking at another one, since we’d been waiting for almost 20 minutes. The tide had bottomed out, so we were waiting on that to turn, which didn’t happen until after our heat was over when the waves really started pumping. So I said, ‘Hey guys, make sure you wait for a good wave before you go!’ But it’s hard to talk to people because everyone’s got their own agenda — it was just me spewing air. No one was listening. Julian ended up going on a wave he probably shouldn’t have gone on because we would have gotten a restart and maybe a couple more waves at the end.”

CJ on his mindset during the heat: “In my head, it was already a crappy heat. I’m thinking I’ll have to wait for the good ones but hopefully not be too far behind the eight ball when it happens because I’m probably going to get sat on. The thing that sucks about three-man heats is if one person’s a dick, then everyone has to be a dick. For that not to happen you have to have three people in agreement, which doesn’t happen very often. So to me, the heat sucked.”

CJ on Adriano’s tactics: “So Adriano paddles around us and we don’t say anything. He paddles around us again, so finally I said, ‘Are you gonna go down the line? Are you gonna let us surf? Are you gonna let us have a wave?’ Then he’s like, ‘I need this heat,’ so he [paddles around us] again. At that, I said, ‘Dude, I’m on this tour because I want to surf.’ He goes, ‘Bro, I’m 4th in the world.’ I was like…”

CJ on his response: I probably can’t even act the way I was acting, which was probably uncalled for, but I said, ‘I don’t care if you’re 1st in the world, I don’t care if your 4th in the world, I don't care if you’re from Djibouti! I surf this tour and I don’t care what place I’m in — I just want to surf good waves! That’s why I’m here. You’re not allowing me to catch waves, and now you’re telling me you’re better than me because you’re 4th in the world?’ I told him, ‘I can’t control myself — I just want to eat you right now!’ So he put his head down and kept me off a couple more waves. Even on my last wave of the heat, I said, ‘Are you going to let me have the wave?’ Again, I surf this tour because I want to surf waves. And he was physically not allowing me to enjoy why I do this tour.”

CJ on sympathizing with Adriano’s tactics: “But you can’t blame him. He wanted to win that [Round Four] heat, that’s how he went about it, and he won. This was an isolated case where Julian and I didn’t break rank. We said, ‘OK, if we just sit here, it’s going to work out.’ It didn’t, but the point is maybe Adriano was being a dick so that everybody else had to be one, and then it’s a case where you can’t look at it as an isolated occurrence — you can’t look at it as, ‘This guy’s a prick.’ Maybe he was forced into it. I don’t like jumping on this bandwagon, because I’ve been a dick plenty of times. I’ve had that agenda. There’s a lot of stuff that happens that people don’t know about, but in this case I guess people were able to see it.”

CJ on matching up with Adriano again in the quarterfinals: “I honestly thought he was going to beat me in the quarterfinal. I was out in the water thinking, 'I remember plenty of times rooting for somebody like Dane [Reynolds] where he ended up losing.' So I was confident, but doubt definitely crept in, too. But I always knew that if I wasn’t comboed, I had a pretty good chance.”

CJ on understanding the numbers: I saw what Adriano's 8.83 looked like and I knew I only had to do it a little better. I was thinking, ‘Just don’t put this into combo land.’ He got that 6.93 and I was a little scared because I was only watching from out the back. I thought, 'If they give him a 7, it’s out of reach.’ So on the one hand they made it a little harder for me, but on the other they only gave it a 6.93, so I knew I could score a couple of points better on my last wave for sure. I just needed that wave to come to me.”

CJ on the overwhelming support that poured in after his miraculous 9.97 to beat Adriano: “It’s one thing to do something you love to do, but it’s another thing when people are genuinely stoked for you. After that heat win, the picture got a little bit bigger — and it happened because of something that I couldn’t predict or premeditate.”

CJ on Volcom’s handling of the rejuvenated Fiji Pro: “Another thing that blew me away was how rad of a family Volcom is. They’ve done the Pipe contest before, but Fiji was a huge risk for them on so many different levels. I can imagine Wooly [Volcom founder Richard Woolcott] sitting down in meetings with stock market people telling him, ‘Show me the numbers! Are you going to sell this many shirts?’ And Woolly saying, ‘No, we’re going to lose money — but we’re going to do it.’ I was able to thank him for that.”

CJ on interacting and charging with the Volcom crew: “They were all so professional, though, from Wooly to Big Tony [Alvarez] to Brad [Dougherty] — very family-oriented and happy to take care of all the little things. It was so refreshing to have the owner of a company come up to us and ask if we were stoked and excited. Those guys wanted our opinions. It was even more refreshing to see Wooly put on his gear and go surfing that big morning. No matter what level the company gets to, the foundation remains the same — the owner going surfing like a grom. I really enjoyed that.”

CJ on his first trip back to Fiji in five years: “People were going, ‘Your record’s so good out there — you have such a great relationship with the place!’ But in the back of my mind, I’m going, ‘Dude, I was good out there back then because half the tour wasn’t as good out there.’ Every guy on tour now is gnarly. So thanks for putting me up there, but let’s talk about reality: these guys are all amazing surfers. Back then, I had a little bit of an easier path. So I was thinking, ‘How do I deflect some of these expectations?’ Surfline was putting my name out there as someone who was going to win the contest, and I’m thinking, ‘I’m lucky to make it out the second round!' [laughs]

CJ on rekindling his relationship with Tavarua: “But I guess it was cool to have people thinking that I still had it out there. So I was just looking for ways to spark back up that relationship. It had been five years, so I was trying to remember the things I used to do out there. But the waves had to come to the party. Fortunately, except for the three-man Round Four heat, the waves semi-pumped for me. The heat I had at Restaurants with Jordy, the waves pumped. My other heats at Cloudbreak, the waves were good. And in the quarterfinal with Adriano, the waves were good. So I had chances, which helped me out.”

CJ on his personal connections on the island: “Getting into a rhythm on Tavarua was easy: I checked in, put my stuff down, and started talking to the locals I’ve always been friends with on a personal level: ‘What’s up with your family? I heard this happened.’ Once I started synching up and talking to everybody that works there, from the kitchen ladies to the boatmen, then I finally felt like, ‘I’m here.’ Then I felt like a part of the family again.”

CJ on Gabriel Medina’s potential: “The thing with Gabriel not making heats during his first couple of World Tour events is that it doesn't matter if you’re Dane or Jordy or even Slater — when you go on that tour, you lose, no matter how good you are. The only other man-on-man heat that Gabriel made this year aside from Tavarua came when he beat Taylor Knox in an average heat at Bells. So as far as the ‘CT goes, he hadn’t done anything before this contest. So yeah, maybe this was his coming-out party — but the talent’s there. And that ain’t going anywhere. He just has to get comfortable with using it, and the way you get comfortable is you lose. You lose close heats. And you lose heats you knew you should have made. You learn, and that’s all good. He’s on his way; his surfing’s always been there. The only thing that can hurt him is he’s only 18. He started on tour when he was only 17. You can look at examples like Taj [Burrow] or Julian [Wilson], guys who had the talent but took a little time to grow into it.”

CJ on John John Florence’s potential: “John John is very, very humble. He sees the bigger picture on so many different levels. To be a champion, there are so many things you have to do. And John John already gets a lot of things that take a lot of time to get. Those other guys will learn, but they’re kids. John John’s young, too, but there are certain champion qualities that you’re just born with. And I’m talking about outside of surfing.”

CJ on John John’s World Title chances: “People have pegged John John as a future world champion, and it’s true — you hang around him and his demeanor is not a show. Stab Magazine wanted him to do a shoot with the girls like Julian and Jordy had done, and John John was like, ‘No, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to pegged as the next guy who stands around with girls.’ He’s his own man. I don’t think he’s striving for cool points. He wants to surf, he wants to have fun, and he knows what he’s capable of. He loses and gets bummed, but it’s not a show — like, ‘Oh, I have to show you that I’m mad I lost to prove to you that I want to win a world title.’ He has all of that within himself. Not to say these other guys don’t have it — it will just take them a while to get there. They might have to fail a lot more times than someone like Johnny.”


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