Editor’s Note: As part of our relaunch series #EVOLVE, we asked The Inertia’s most talented contributors to share moments that caused significant personal growth and transformation in their lives – ideally with some relation to surfing, but also to life in general. These are some of CJ Hobgood’s moments.
Surfing has made me the person I am today. It’s always brought greater faith in my life that things would always work out, no matter how empty the highs felt or how down I would get when the lows came. Finding a way to enjoy the process has always been greater for me than the end product, and in the process there is so much personal growth and transformation. These are some moments of that growth and transformation, both physically and spiritually.
The beginning: PORTUGAL
At 18, I won a 5-star event, which would be equal to prime event right now. I did it by taking a huge risk: I surfed a bank way over and out the back, far away from my competitors. I ended up comboing the field and really had no idea what was even happening. I was straight out of high school, and this was supposed to be my learning year on tour. I was young and I was in Portugal, so we went pretty hard the night before the finals. In the morning, I was sitting in the car with Bobby Martinez, sipping on sweet tea and trying to sober up, just praying the conditions weren’t ideal so I could get more sleep. Things went my way: they made the call for an 11am start instead of 8am. Perfect, I thought. I’ll be better by then.
After I won, I checked into my flight early and took a taxi over to the mall to kill some time. I went to a pay phone in the mall made a collect call to my parents to tell them the news. I told my mom I was in the mall in Portugal with eight thousand dollars in my pocket because I won the comp. When I got home, I started to hear whispers saying that I just needed one more quarters or semis in the next competitions, and I would qualify. The only thing I could think of was how much it was going to suck to be doing the tour by myself. I wanted my brother to be there with me, but I knew it would be good to get my own identity.
A blessing… but not why you think: WORLD TITLE
I was an underdog, blue-collar worker. I never wanted anything to be given to me – I know the value of hard work. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the sport I loved, but when I won the World Title in 2001, it never felt right. I gave the trophy to a friend, telling him to get it out of my sight, but I could never get rid of the announcers. Every time I hit the water for a heat, they’d say “…your 2001 World Champ, CJ Hobgood!”
With what I’ve been through last year, I’m comfortable with my life. But honestly, the whole situation and how I got the title only gave a reason for people to write me off. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise because now I love criticism. People writing me off helps me slip into my comfort zone.
Trying to fix the unfixable: DIVORCE
When I was in France grinding it out on the QS, I was swimming in debt. I couldn’t afford to fall off the tour and to lose my contracts. Then my wife at the time called and said she was moving out of our two million dollar house we just built. We had only been in it for six months. I missed my daughter, and I knew I had to get a result in a comp, no matter how bad I was feeling. I ended up getting a fifth, so I’d be able to qualify. At least if things got even messier, I could still pay the bills. But spending money on a house – or anything, for that matter – doesn’t fix relationship problems. It was just a bandaid for the inevitable.
I was scared because it was the first time in my life where I wasn’t able to fix something. See, in surfing when something needed to get fixed, I was able to do it. I could make problems go away. But in my life at that point, I was merely along for the ride. That led to real growth, along with a lot of pain, but I felt that when I came out on the other side a few years later, I was a better man.
A rebirth: MARRIAGE
Eventually, the blessings started coming again. After everything I’d been through, I knew that I was going to do things differently. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes twice. From day one, I did things differently with my beautiful wife Cortney. She’s still, to this day, my best friend. She also has a daughter, so we brought our little girls and all of our experience and did things differently. She challenged me at every corner, and I, in turn, challenged her.
Now I enjoy every day to the fullest. I always look at our relationship by how much we’ve grown. When I look into the future, it’s with excitement, but I’m not expecting anything. I also do that with surfing. I’m fine with losing, getting kicked off tour or being written off. The only thing I care about is growth in my life. When it comes to surfing and dealing with my friends and fans, I want them to see that, although I’ve come a long way, I’m still the same person that I was. I’ve just learned a few lessons along the way. There’s so much freedom in the growth process. I know how much God loves me, and his plan for my life is better than my plans could ever be. Cortney and I have a daughter of our own now, Bowie Grey Hobgood. It’s always funny when we tell people we have a his, a hers and an ours.