Hobgood’s backup plan is working to perfection
C.J. Hobgood doesn’t mind mixing with the regular crowd. The 28-year-old former world champion from Florida has been a card-carrying member of the World Championship Tour for the last decade, but this year he plans to spend more time than usual on the World Qualifying Series.
This week, he’s competing at the Honda U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, where he won his heat Friday in the round of 48.
Hobgood has won two of the five WQS contests he has entered this year, including the Jeep-Body Glove Surfbout in April at Lower Trestles near San Clemente. His success on the WQS has given him a viable backup plan should he fail to requalify for one of the 42 spots on the men’s WCT.
The top 27 at season’s end automatically reclaim their spots for next year. Those outside the cutoff mark must finish in the top 15 on the hundreds-strong WQS or be forced to return to the qualifying series next year. Hobgood is currently ranked No. 25 on the WCT and No. 41 on the WQS.
Hobgood is feeling fortunate he started accumulating WQS points early in the season.
“It’s not like I’m starting from zero and trying to make a run,” he said.
The WCT schedule does not resume until Sept. 9 at Trestles, giving Hobgood a window of opportunity to move up the rankings next month by competing in several high-stakes WQS events in Europe.
“I don’t want to be too cool for school and take anything for granted,” he said of the WQS. “I’m going to do a couple of these events and see what happens.”
Hobgood’s twin brother, Damien, is in better position. A couple weeks after C.J. won at Trestles, Damien won a WCT stop in Tahiti. With two other top-five finishes on his resume, Damien is ranked No. 6 on the WCT, allowing him to skip this week’s event in Huntington Beach.
“I definitely wouldn’t mind being in his shoes,” C.J. said.
The U.S. Open wasn’t so kind to several other WCT surfers who competed Friday.
Cory Lopez of Laguna Niguel, Bruce Irons and Fred Patacchia of Hawaii, Tom Whitaker and Josh Kerr of Australia and Adriano de Souza of Brazil were each eliminated in the round of 48. Troy Brooks of Australia was eliminated in the opening heat of the round of 24.
Patacchia, 25, was called for interference on Australian Kirk Flintoff early in their heat, causing his best-wave score to be halved. Both men took off on a wave heading toward each other before they bailed.
Patacchia, who said he thought he had priority, cursed at the judges as he walked away from the water and ran up the stairs toward their booth before backstage personnel intervened.
“I don’t know what they’re looking at up there,” Patacchia said of the judges. “If anything, there was no interference because I fell off before he even got to me.
“The whole thing is, you’re hindering the scoring potential of the wave. I didn’t really hinder anything, and I was in the more critical part of the wave.”
The losses by Patacchia and Irons put a damper on an otherwise bright day for the Hawaiians.
T.J. Barron, Kekoa Bacalso, Hank Gaskell and Dustin Cuizon advanced to today’s remaining heats in the round of 24. Roy Powers, the highest-ranked Hawaiian on the WQS, was eliminated in the second of two heats held Friday in the round of 24.
“Everybody has been on a roll,” Cuizon said. “We always surf Huntington each year and we’ve been surfing it since we’ve been groms.”
The Hawaiian contingent can use the qualifying points. Powers, at No. 17, is the only Hawaiian ranked in the top 33 on the WQS.
Courtney Conlogue, a 14-year-old from of Santa Ana, won her heat with a last-second ride in the women’s round of 24. Conlogue earned a wave score of 6.20 out of a possible 10, giving her a best-two wave score of 12.93. She edged out Kyla Langen of Carlsbad (12.26) to win the heat. Conlogue will surf this morning in a three-way heat in the round of 12. The final is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Bethany Hamilton, the 17-year-old from Hawaii who lost her left arm in a shark attack four years ago, and Holly Beck of Palos Verdes did not advance from the round of 24.