CJ Hobgood: he missed victories

C.J. Hobgood has won the Billabong Azores Islands Pro after defeating Nate Yeomans in an epic encounter which came down to an explosive final seven minutes with the lead changing, 17.53 to 15.33 in tricky 3-4ft wind affected peaks at Praia de Santa Barbara.

Hobgood looked gone for all money with under 10 minutes remaining to eventually answer back with a huge front-side air to claim a 9.03 (out of 10) and get back into the Finals race. Yeomans came back with his own excellent ride of 8.33 to leave Hobgood needing another solid score to take the win. With less than two minutes on the clock, Hobgood snuck under the radar and pulled a massive fins-free snap and carve to claim an 8.50 to culminate an amazing come-from-behind win.

“It was an amazing last five minutes. The first 30 minutes I was in melt down mode and Yeomans was getting all the waves and I couldn’t get more than a 3. I kept putting my head down and the conditions are so testing just mentally and physically not knowing which is a good wave or a bad wave. I kept trying and didn’t give up and the next thing I knew I was in the lead and the heat was over.”

“If you are going to do it,” continued Hobgood, “it is always good to come back but then again it is not always good to put yourself in a deep hole. For some reason that is the way I surf and do it I suppose. (laughs)”

Hobgood, who recently missed the mid-year cut and dropped out of the elite ASP World Tour, has come back with vengeance demonstrating his ability to mix it with the new up-and-comers battling it out on the Prime series. Keen to improve his surfing, Hobgood is learning from his younger counterparts and applying it to his approach.

“I want to improve on my surfing and these kids that are on tour are doing airs all the time so I wanted to pull that into my game a little more. I don’t know what it looked like but I was just trying to change stuff and mix it up. I hadn’t been to the Azores so I wanted to do something different and whatever I did I wanted to switch it up and have fun and stoked to win this contest.”

Yeomans, ranked nº81 before the Billabong Azores Islands Pro, was the inform surfer of the event with his controlled power surfing in the choppy conditions. The Final was within his grasp as he built on his total finishing with a polished snap and double rail-grab air to put the pressure back onto Hobgood. His decision not to take that last scoring wave of the clash proved to be a costly decision.

“It was one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations. There were two minutes left and it was tough. In hindsight I would have gone but the thing had only one move and he (Hobgood) maximized it. It was a tough one to let go by and I saw some air and I heard the crowd go wild. I’m still stoked with second and I haven’t been on the podium for a while so I’m stoked.”

Yeomans now moves onto more events in Santa Cruz where he has won before and to the upcoming contests in Hawaii where he feels comfortable. With added confidence from his Finals finish in Azores, Yeomans is preparing for the remainder of the year and remains positive with his runner-up placing and 5,200 valuable ranking points.

“I have had a lot of good heats and it is tough to get so close to a win and miss it especially in that sort of scenario but I can’t be bummed. Twenty grand for a week of surfing, there are no complaints out of me. Overall I am stoked.”

ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro Final
C.J. Hobgood (USA) 17.53 Def. Nate Yeomans (USA) 15.33

ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro Semi-final Results
Heat 1: Nate Yeomans (USA) 11.23 Def. Jay Quinn (NZL) 10.67
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 11.46 Def. Thiago Camarao (BRA)