CJ Hobgood conquers the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing

Florida’s C.J. Hobgood, 29, won the ASP WQS 6-Star O’Neill World Cup of Surfing today in clean 20-to-30-foot wave face heights, making Hobgood the first goofy-footer in 11 years to win at Sunset Beach.

Australia’s Michael Romelese was the last goofy-footer to win at Sunset in 1997, he also won the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title the same year.

On his backhand, Hobgood, who was the 2001 ASP World Champ, charged his way to victory, grabbing the biggest wave of the 35-minute final.

Hobgood was blown away by his first-place finish and the massive waves.

"It’s the perfect size and really clean. There was probably one or two sets per heat that were too big," Hobgood said. "Just some macking nuts waves out there."

"My usual experience out at Sunset is just getting worked pretty much. This ranks up there with my WT wins and everything else because I never totally pictured myself winning this contest, so it ranks that much higher."

"That just shows you what Sunset can do. You just roll the dice, go out, and sometimes Mother Nature is good to you, and other times it just beats you down."

"There’s four guys out there, but you never really see your competitors the whole time. It’s Man versus Nature out there, and that’s what makes Sunset so challenging and appealing."

Hobgood avoided Sunset’s wrath and negotiated the giant walls of water beautifully, scoring 8.5 and 6.5 rides to win the 6-Star Qualifying Series Event.

Australia’s Tom Whitaker, 29, also surfed well in the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing and finished runner-up. Whitaker was in awe of the quality of surf Sunset Beach produced today.

"It’s pretty much as dreamy as Sunset gets. It’s beautifully clean and really, really good-sized," Whitaker said.

"It’s not too big and scary. It was just beautiful all day, and I think I saw some of the best waves I’ve ever seen at Sunset."

"And, for the final day of the tournament to run in such good conditions, it was really cool."

Sunset Beach local Marcus Hickman, 29, finished behind Whitaker in third place. He fell victim to poor wave ion, yet this was Hickman’s best Vans Triple Crown of Surfing performance to date.

South Africa’s Jordy Smith, 20, finished in fourth place and never got in the rhythm, breaking his board and injuring his right leg in the final.

Smith has never finished lower than the quarterfinals at Sunset, and this was his second finals appearance at the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing.

Smith posted a 10-point ride earlier today in the round of 32 by getting a tube. He also posted the highest heat score of the contest a 18.50 out of a possible 20 in the same round.

The top Brazilian finishers today were Leandro Bastos and Rodrigo Dornelles. Both were eliminated in fourth place in their respective heats in the round of 32, placing equal 25th overall.

Europe’s highest finisher was Eric Rebiere (France), who placed third in his heat in the round of 32 to finish equal 17th overall.

After today, Dusty Payne (HAW) is ranked first for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing overall title.

This year’s O’Neill World Cup of Surfing Champion C.J. Hobgood(USA) is second, and Joel Parkinson (AUS) is third.

All three surfers will be competing at the Billabong Pipeline Masters.

The Noseguard Rookie of the Year Award for the top performing rookie of the Vans Triple Crown series was awarded today to Australia’s Yadin Nicol, 23, who enjoyed an exceptional run here at Sunset Beach, finishing 9th place today.

Nicol narrowly missed qualifying for the 2009 World Tour at Sunset Beach today. The O’Neill World Cup of Surfing is the last event of the 2008 Qualifying Series (QS) season.

The following QS surfers have all qualified for the 2009 World Tour (WT): Nathaniel Curran (USA), Chris Davidson (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF), Gabe Kling (USA), Jihad Khodr (BRA), Josh Kerr (AUS), Nic Muscroft (AUS), David Weare (ZAF), Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), Tim Boal (FRA), Greg Emslie (ZAF), Dustin Barca (HAW), Tiago Pires (PRT), Phillip MacDonald (AUS), and Drew Courtney (AUS). Depending on Tiago Pires’ performance at the Billabong Pipeline Masters, Marlon Lipke (DEU) may qualify for the 2009 World Tour.

The third and final jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing - the Billabong Pipeline Masters, begins its holding period on Monday, December 8.

The women’s Vans Triple Crown will culminate on Maui with the Billabong Pro, also starting December 8.

Top Stories

The first-ever pro tour wave pool contest was held at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

A wipeout changed Jack Johnson's life. Here's how the young man who once dreamed of becoming a pro surfer went on to sell over 25 million album copies.

I have to admit it. There has always been something glamorous surrounding the dreams of living the life of a pro surfer.

Twenty-three-year-old surfer Kai McKenzie suffered a severe shark attack off the coast of North Shore Beach near Port Macquarie, New South Wales.