What’s more dangerous than a man with nothing to lose? When that man’s got a world championship, 12 pro victories, a fit body, a hot bride and a new lease on life. Count my words—CJ Hobgood is going to finish in the Top Ten of the ASP World Tour in 2012.
CJ’s risen out of the ashes of a tough couple of years to emerge a stronger, happier man than he’s ever been. When I spoke to him on the eve of the Nike Lowers Pro, he was a man in love--in love with his new wife, his daughter and step-daughter, surfing and even competing. And while that alone is enough to manhandle a 12ft. 2nd reef Pipe bomb, it’s not all that now spurs him on. He feels no pressure to win, despite knowing every nuance that will help him do it and he’s now with a sponsor that fills his surfing with a higher purpose—To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA).
To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a non-profit organization that helps those who suffer from self-injury, depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts. Enabled by his strong faith and his feeling that “impacting others is the biggest calling in life”, he can now use his stature as a surf legend to help scores of people find their inner-voice and rise from some very dark places. Can you imagine if your surfing resulted in providing hope and inspiration for people? How much better would you ride a wave? How much positive energy would be behind every paddle, air reverse and barrel? No one’s ever surfed with more purpose than CJ is right now. Not anyone from this generation or those that have come before. We’re going to see a CJ we haven’t seen. And it’s going to be devastating. Top Ten, people. Top Ten.
Read on to see what CJ himself had to say.
TSV: Hey CJ! Thanks!
CJ: Yeah, thank you man, for doing the piece on Jamie [Tworkowski-Founder of TWLOHA]. If there’s any way I can help out, I’d be honored.
TSV: Well, there’s another side to all this that I wanted to tell you. I’m actually a survivor of my brother’s suicide 32 years ago. So…
CJ: So, this is close to home for sure.
TSV: Very close to home. I come at you from that angle too. So, I really appreciate you doing this.
CJ: No, my pleasure man… Did you enjoy that run of waves you guys got the last few weeks?
TSV: CJ, I missed the whole thing because of some work travel.
CJ: Ohhhhhh….I’m sorry to bring that up. You were giving it up for the greater good. (laughing)…
TSV: So, how are things going for you out there?
CJ: Things are good right now…I’m driving around California, going out with my family, I’m able to go surf and have my own little schedule which is pretty good…I’ve been down at Trestles for the contest…
TSV: Are you all ready?
CJ: Yeah, I’ve been trying all different boards and getting ready.
TSV: And you just got married too?
CJ: Yeah, just got married in February and things are good and going in the right direction. I’m enjoying myself more than ever.
TSV: So, I wanted to ask you if the sponsorship of TWLOHA feels different to you than the one with Globe or another big surf company? Do you feel a different kind of momentum behind you?
CJ: It does feel different. It feels--given my career and the path I’ve been through—like I kind of needed something a little bit different. I think my heart was always open, but it just kind of fell in my lap and grew some roots, and it just happened…like it was meant to happen. As far as doing sponsor-things, I’m still surfing and all, but it’s different enough...You know, last year when I was just dabbling in [the relationship w/ TWLOHA] I was talking to all the surfers on tour, telling them about it on whatever level they wanted to get into… Now from last year to this year, it’s kinda cool to have that relationship with people on tour since they now know what I’m doing. At first, people thought it was a band or something (laughs).
I’m learning and educating myself about the non-profit world as well and I’m learning a lot, which is fun. And I’m learning how to communicate with people, how to relate and educate them at the same time and getting the word out there. So, all of that stuff does make it all fun and all different. Plus, all the surf companies rallied around me and I definitely thank all my sponsors for supporting me, so that I can do something I love and really want to do.
TSV: Well, I can tell you after being involved in suicide prevention efforts for many years, that it’s not an easy thing to do.
CJ: Well, I think it’s a little bit easier because people know me and my character and know me as a person for long enough where their trust is built up…And I think the guys on tour that respect me and that I respect, their ears are more open. It’s a challenge and a leap of faith for me. It is heavy stuff to talk about. You know, I think my faith helps me out a lot too. I’ve openly talked about Jesus and that makes some people uncomfortable, so having that background helps out too.
TSV: You actually sound great when you talk about it. It may be funny to say, but you sound pumped!
CJ: I’m excited! I mean I’ve been on a steep learning curve. I’ll get in an interview after a heat and they’ll ask, ‘So, what’s To Write Love On Her Arms’ and I’m flying by the seat of my pants! I realize that there’s a lot of people out there that don’t talk about this stuff and…that deal with these issues and we all need to help those people and let them know that they’re not alone. It’s like dropping into a big wave for me. My heart’s pounding and all of that happens, man!
TSV: I said to Jamie that the TWLOHA site is the best I’ve seen and you’ve got a good engine behind you.
TSV: The other thing I wanted to throw out at you is that surfing by nature is selfish and getting a world title has to be a selfish pursuit. But this endeavor is anything but selfish.
CJ: Well, I’m now comfortable with myself and…you have to find your foundation and you’ve really got to be comfortable with yourself to talk about this stuff. I’m just more comfortable with myself and surfing.
TSV: Where do you want to take the relationship you have with TWLOHA?
CJ: I kind of just want to put light on Jamie [and TWLOHA]. I mean, seeing him have a passion for helping people and he’s just so not selfish. I think that’s kind of the biggest calling in life—how you impact others. If you can have an impact on people to do things that they didn’t know they were capable of…that’s a huge calling and Jamie’s had that effect on me in my life. So, I’m definitely thankful for him and it got me where I’m at today, amongst other things…You know, I still love surfing and have a passion for it...I’m like a NSSA grom again now, going down to Trestles with my boards and just going surfing. The pressure of winning is not there, because I’ve failed enough times where it’s gone.
TSV: What’s been the response of your fans?
CJ: Honestly, man, I don’t even know…When I see fans, I just see friends, you know? I know that when I see surfers I look up to, I get pumped and stoked and I want to go surf. So, if someone could see me and feel that, that’s rad. In terms of answering your question…I don’t even know…
TSV: You’re being very humble.
CJ: Yeah, but you can’t really take it seriously. You can’t in anything that you do….you just have to enjoy the ride.
TSV: So, you’re sitting at #13 on the ratings. World Title?
CJ: Yeah, if I can stay healthy. You know for a few years, I just had a lot of stuff on my mind and it wasn’t doing me any favors and made me question some things…but getting married and getting things straight in my life and taking responsibility for things opened up possibilities for other things. Now when I go out surfing, I’m doing it with a clear head. You know I’m thinking about my board, being healthy and trying different [maneuvers]. All those factors definitely got me in a good place…and things are going my way and I’m having fun and good things are happening.
TSV: That’s awesome to hear. I’m psyched for you.
CJ: Thanks. Hey, I’m just about to run into Mayhem to pick up some boards.
TSV: Alright, thanks so much for your time.
CJ: Thank you and stay in touch.
A couple of other things to remember about CJ and my Top Ten prediction:
1) 32 is the New 22
Say what you will about their hairlines, but Slater, Ceej, Damo, Taj, Mick, Parko and Taylor have all gotten more powerful and polished as they’ve gotten older. No doubt they watch the young guns to stay relevant, but there’s a certain flair in the way they surf a wave that’s not there with a lot of the new crew.
2) Teahupoo, France, Trestles, Hawaii
He’s excelled at every one of these locations, taking events at each of them at least once in his career. These are all old familiar stomping grounds. He knows the waves, the vibe, the local people and they all love him. Familiarity breeds confidence and that equals tour wins.
3) He’s a Stealth Bomber
No one sees CJ coming. All eyes are on the young guns, but he’s had some solid placings already and he’s got venues coming up where he’ll finish strong.
Stats & Facts from aspworldtour.com
Globe footwear, Smith Eyewear, Vestal Watches, FCS Fins, DaKine accessories, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) organization and Quiet Flight Surfboards
Born: July 6th 1979
Career Prizemoney: $1,258,858
World Champion in 2001
2001: ASP World Champion
1999: 18th Rookie of the Year
World Title Event Victories:
- Billabong Pro Mundaka (2008)
- Billabong Pro Teahupoo (2004)
- Japan Quiksilver Pro (2004)
- Hossegor Rip Curl Pro (2000)
Other Tour Victories:
- ASP Billabong Azores Islands Pro (2011) ASP PRIME
- O’Neill World Cup (2008) ASP PRIME
- O’Neill Sebastian Inlet Pro (2007) ASP 4-Star
- Jeep-Body Glove Surfbout (2007) ASP 4-Star
- Honda US Open of Surfing (2007) ASP 6-Star
- Fosters Cup Trestles (2002) ASP 2-Star
- Boundi Sintra Pro (1998) ASP 5-Star
- Reef Biarritz Surf Trophee (2001) ASP Specialty