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Saturday, October 1, 2011
CJ Hobgood catches fire in Azores

By Jon Coen

CJ Hobgood just got rotated out of the Top 32 by the new generation of air surfers. There was clearly only on thing to do at the Azores Islands Pro Prime.
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3

If you're CJ Hobgood, with ten quality years on the ASP's World Tour under your belt, (including one world title and four elite tour victories) but recently rotated out of the Top 32, you have a few choices in life. But there are two specifically that come to mind.

The first would be to keep up enough points to surf occasional qualifying events, (a sponsor wildcard is out of the question) get in the commentary booth, show up in Hawaii every winter, score the hottest photo trips, and maybe start thinking about coaching the next generation of Florida fly boys. The other option is to come out and win the very first Prime event and show the world that you're not just going down swinging, but you're still a heavyweight contender.

Melbourne's 32-year-old goofyfoot chose the latter this week, traveling to the Azores Islands Pro and winning it. And he did it by beating key surfers from the generation that is supposed to be pushing him out the door -- with their own moves!

The surf was tough by any standards today and the name of the game was connect the dots. However, the sets were still up to shoulder high and the closeout sections did offer opportunity to take to the air, especially for the Americans.

Kolohe Andino found the rare cover up section, but ultimately fell to CJ Hobgood.

In his first time ever to the Azores, Hobgood beat Tiago Camaroa and Kolohe Andino in the last heat of yesterday's round four with a big, if not awkward air. In round five, Andino beat Travis Logie to set up an Andino/Hobgood rematch, which Hobgood won handily. Hobgood then snuck by Camaroa in the semis.

Nate Yeomens, of San Clemente, has to be disappointed. He was the man to beat in the late rounds, downing Brazilian star, Miguel Pupo, and then Kiwi Jay Quinn, who has come on hard this year himself. And despite dominating most of the final, Yeomens ceded to Hobgood.

"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 (on Hobgood's winning wave) but the thing had only one move and he 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. I haven't been on the podium for a while so I'm stoke," said Yeomens.

The final was nothing short of a barnburner. Yeomens took a considerable lead, dissecting a junky line on his forehand, while Hobgood took off on no less than six waves that went nowhere. For ten minutes there was barely a peak with any scoring potential. In a combo situation, Hobgood powered into a ledgy one and launched into a big slob grab air over an ugly section for a 9.03.

Then came a frantic flip-flop wherein Hobgood backed up his high with a mid-range wave and Yeomens answered with a double-grab air of his own. Within a minute, Hobgood took off again and did a superstar tail blow, bringing it around and getting another slash before looking directly at the judges and yelling, "Come on!" It was that familiar competitive Hobgood fire, passionate yet professional. A few minutes later, Gabe Kling and Cory Lopez chaired him up the beach.

San Clemente's Nate Yeomens surfed a great event to get to the finals, but was beaten by Hobgood's airs.

"The first 30 minutes, I was in meltdown mode," admitted Hobgood, "Yeomans was getting all the waves and I couldn't get more than a three. 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."

Hobgood is still lacking a major sponsor and has been representing his friend's charity "To Write Love on Her Arms," all year. $40,000 and a big bounce back are definitely nice. But there was another upside (provided you're not a Brazzo surf fan.) Unfortunately for Heitor Alves, the knee he injured on Friday in winning his round three heat was serious enough to pull out of the event. This leaves him questionable for the Quik Pro France, and could possibly open up a spot for Hobgood.

In other news, Reunion Island's Romain Cloitre clinched the ASP European title when Alain Riou, of French Polynesia lost to Quinn in round five. The Quik Pro France starts on Tuesday.

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)

ASP PRIME Billabong Azores Islands Pro Quarterfinal Results
Heat 1: Nate Yeomans (USA) 14.23 Def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.77
Heat 2: Jay Quinn (NZL) 12.67 Def. Leonardo Neves (BRA) 8.87
Heat 3: Thiago Camarao (BRA) 13.56 Def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.40
Heat 4: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 14.60 Def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.94