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28.07.04 - THE CHAMP TO CHASE - A quick chat with Andy Irons after his win in the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay.
- THREE black birds are flying home a lot earlier than they'd like, but they'll be back plump with confidence and glowing white with brilliance...
15.07.04 - NO APOLOGIES - It occasionally seems like some surfers get more exposure than others; it happens, but there’s no bias intended...

06.09.04 - SUGOII! SUBARASHI CJ!!!
Ex sarge, Hebara Beach, Chiba, Katsuura City, Japan, Monday September 6th 2004.
CJ Hobgood, Joel ParkinsonYES, we have another lesson in Japanese for you all this morning: ‘Sugoii’ is the Nippon equivalent to declaring bravo, awesome…goin’ orff! ‘Subarashi’ is their word for amazing, almost defying comprehension, stunning, astounding – and that was what we experienced here in Japan yesterday - an astonishing finale to four magnificent days of surfing, culminating with an ending that could not have been scripted or even conceived by even the most eccentric of writers, the most optimistic gambler, or inspired armchair sporting enthusiast. It was bizarre!

After racking nine point rides throughout the draw in the Quiksilver Pro Japan, combo-ing reigning world champ’ Andy Irons in his quarter final, smashing an otherwise impressive and revived Chris Davidson in his semi-final, and then having 2001 world champ CJ Hobgood on the ropes needing over 16 points with four minutes remaining in the final of the Quiksilver Pro Japan, Joel Parkinson looked destined for victory but then…frankly, it really was just simply unbelievable. Here in Japan the morning after, it’s still all a bit hard for all of us to get our heads around those final four minutes. In that tiny timeframe, CJ Hobgood delivered what was very possibly the most radical comeback in the history of the sport. Only Jake Paterson’s stunning victory over Bruce Irons, after the hooter, in the final of the Pipe Masters back in the late 90s comes close in terms of drama and accomplishment, not to mention the electric emotion that exploded through everyone’s mind and spirit with the realisation of what the ever-smiling Floridian had just achieved.

“Yeah the five minute warning hooter had gone, Parko had an 8.0 and an 8.2, or something like that, and I needed 16.5 – two high scoring waves!” recalled Ceej after getting his breath back yesterday, going on to confess “At that stage I wasn’t even thinking about the possibility of a comeback. I was just sitting there lamenting the fact that the ocean had deserted me, just like it had deserted my brother Damo in our quarter-final. Then a left came through, and frankly…well, I just surfed it. I thought: well, it felt like it was a seven at best, but the judges gave me an 8.2 score. I thought that maybe they (the judges) were trying to help me out, but then I was also thinking that perhaps they thought that they’d been a little generous with Joel’s eights maybe? I wasn't to know. I had only seen his waves from behind, and he had been ripping right through the event.”

“Anyway, Parko had priority and it was still looking to be a done deal. I paddled a bit here and there, but Joel was totally in control. With less than a minute to go, he stroked into his final wave. I just watched him fire off down the line, get two good turns in, thinking he might have even improved his score…but then I turned around, and there was this wave for me. There was maybe 40 seconds to go. What happened from there, I don’t really know. I was just on whirlwind autopilot, just along for the ride, the experience. I still can’t believe it!”

Ceej’s autopilot is a mighty fine system. He racked up a 9.4 scoreline on that wave out of the blue, He dropped down the face of what actually peaked as a nice ‘A’ frame at takeoff and turned on his backhand to ride off down the line of a wobbly and mostly fullish two foot wall. After a small initial turn he faced a crumbling section and somehow spun his way over that white water with a fully functional reverse. The crowd let up a cheer, and then a collective sigh in as he momentarily sort of disappeared in the whitewater, all assuming he might be about to slip and fall, but he did not. He had executed the reverse with such speed and dexterity that it was a challenge for the thousands of transfixed eyes watching to translate their vision into any sort of comprehendable mindspace. Running on from the bouncing foam, he laid a cutty, then a quick and vertical linking reo before flowing into the shoreline. After gathering a little speed he then took to the air again, into another reverse – was it a reverse? I’m honestly not sure. Emotion had taken over. You just don’t know. NO words could describe the hype in the air.

As he ran along the beach high-five-ing the hordes of stoked Japanese crew who lined his path along the water’s edge, he still had no idea that he had snatched victory from Parko. Suddenly, in frantic Nippon tones, the announcer read out CJ’s score and the crowd absolutely erupted with the emotion and thrill of the spectacle that was unravelling before their privileged eyes. Quiky’s John Shimooka then excitedly announced the score in English, but CJ couldn’t hear a thing over the thrilled and screaming crowd. As he sprinted around the invading throng of humanity, and came to the edge of the cordoned off security area in front of the main podium, he looked up with an arm out, an expectant look on his startled face. He still didn’t know he’d just won his second WCT event of the season, a victory in complete contrast to his one-man show in Tahiti after Nathan Hedge had left the water seven minutes into the final of the Billabong Pro Teahupoo with a dislocated shoulder. He looked straight at me, his eyes pleading for clarification, and the honour became mine to give him the thumbs up.

As pandemonium broke out all around him, CJ ran into the cleared area before the event superstructure (struth – I’m getting teary writing this!), screaming his lungs out he threw his board to the heavens, and then continued running on up the beach triumphantly hooting, his arms raised in victory. No one could believe it, let alone the man himself. Ironically, an Aussie flag in hand, all set to cloak and chair Parko up the beach as the assumed victor less than two minutes earlier, was Chris Davidson, who bear-hugged the blownout CJ and lifted him up. It was brotherhood at its finest. Next came CJ’s shaper Bill Johnson, as stoked for Ceej as anyone, maybe even more so, the Californian foam blazer who has long been the shaping backbone of the Rusty Surfboards empire, now having had three WCT winning boards under the feet of victors this season, two with Ceej, one with brother Damo from the Quiky Pro in Fiji!

Moving into second place in the ratings after his incredible victory, Clifton James Hobgood was the man here in Japan yesterday. He deserves all those Japanese syllables and declarations and more, and ditto to Quiky, the ASP Asia licensee Mr. Aoi’s Aim Create, his 'left-hand woman' Itoko, and especially the surfing and hosting souls of the local Japanese culture who so respectfully and enthusiastically supported and encouraged all of us here in Chiba. Again – Nippon Domo Arigato!
GODblessyas sarge
P.S. Sorry about that Parko! There’s a lesson there somewhere…dig deeper brother!