C.J. Hobgood (Melbourne Beach, FL) has taken the 2007 Honda U.S. Open of Surfing presented by O’Neill title this weekend, defeating Jeremy Flores (Hossegor, FRA) in an all-elite Foster’s ASP World Tour final.
The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star event wrapped up its week full of competition with three back-to-back finals featuring the most-anticipated match-up of the event despite the less-than-ideal 1’ to 2’ (half metre) surf on offer.
Hobgood, current No. 25 on the elite Foster’s ASP World Tour, claimed his third ASP WQS event of the season, punctuating the tiny surf with a combination of flowing carves and exciting aerials.
“I don’t know what’s going on; I’ve entered four WQS events in North America and won three of them,” Hobgood said. “I guess I’ve just been getting really good boards at home and I’ve been feeling more comfortable having my family close. It’s a great feeling to get these wins here in the States; I just wish I could transfer some of these wins onto the World Tour.”
At 25th on the elite Foster’s ASP World Tour, Hobgood’s requalification for 2008 is uncertain at the present halfway point, however this win rockets the phenomenal goofy-footer from 45th to 18th on the ASP WQS.
“It would be stupid of me not to do a few more WQS events this season,” Hobgood said. “I’m going to go to Japan and then I am going to the Hossegor event, but that being said, I will be thinking about the World Tour event at Trestles even while I’m at these next two. The elite tour is obviously my focus, but having the backup rating never hurts.”
Flores, current No. 12 on the Foster’s ASP World Tour, looked near unbeatable throughout the second half of the Honda U.S. Open of Surfing presented by O’Neill. The prodigious Frenchmen surfed with unmatched wave selection and speed, yet failed to find the scoring rides in the Final.
“I feel like I was surfing pretty good throughout the event, but the waves just got really bad for the final day,” Flores said. “It is unfortunate, but I made the semis last season and the finals this year so that is an improvement. Maybe next year I can get a win here.”
Jean Da Silva (Santa Catarina, BRA), 3rd place finisher, was the dark horse performer throughout the event, beating out Mikael Picon (Hossegor, FRA) and Gabe Kling (St. Augustine, FL) en route to his semifinals berth, but was unable to stop the rampaging Flores.
“The waves out there were hard, but they were hard for everyone,” Da Silva said. “Jeremy (Flores) really got started off quickly during the heat and that’s what I probably should have done – still a very good result for me. It helps me out and I will be working very hard over the next few months in hopes of qualifying for the World Tour.”
Dustin Cuizon (Ewa Beach, HI) posted some big upsets on the way to his equal 3rd-place finish (moving him from 64th to 40th on the ASP WQS), however could not match the explosiveness of Hobgood in their semifinal clash.
“This is a very good result for me and will hopefully move me up in the ratings a bit,” Cuizon said. “I haven’t really had a big result since winning Surfbout last year so this is great. I am a bit bummed that I did not make the final, but I’ll take the 3rd place and move on to the next one.”
Prior to the men’s finish, the Finals for both the ASP Grade-2 Lost Pro Junior and the U.S. Open of Longboarding were run. Having ran through their respective draws last weekend, the two four-man finals featured an array of talented surfers that pushed performance levels to new heights in the afternoon surf.
Tonino Benson (Kona, HI), who nearly missed the Lost Pro Junior Final because of ASP WQS obligations in Japan, dominated the onshore peaks, busting speedy aerials and fin-free maneuvers with ease. The fleet-footed Hawaiian posted a massive victory over fellow Lost Pro Junior finalists Chris Waring (Seal Beach, CA), Jordy Smith (Durban, ZAF) and Mason Ho (North Shore, HI).
“I’m so stoked I didn’t end up going to Japan early,” Benson said. “I was considering heading there to try to make it through the Trials for the 6-Star, but I decided that this would be a better opportunity for me. The competition was super stiff with Jordy (Smith) and Mason (Ho) and Chris (Waring) there so to come away with the win is a real honor.”
Waring, who finished runner-up to Benson, gained the most from his solid finish at the Lost Pro Junior, rocketing from fifth to first on the 2007 ASP North America Pro Junior ratings.
“This is unbelievable – I never imagined that I would be leading at Pro Junior ratings at this point,” Waring said. “I’m so stoked right now that I don’t really know what to say. We still have a few more events this season so I’m just going to keep on pushing to keep the momentum up. I definitely want to be in the Top-4 at year’s end and I definitely want to go to the ASP World Junior Championships in January.”
Colin McPhillips (San Clemente, CA), former three-time ASP World Longboarding Champion, was in brilliant form this afternoon, posting a convincing win over fellow finalists to claim the 2007 U.S. Open of Longboarding title.
“I’m pretty much at a loss for words,” McPhillips said. “I won my very first professional event here at the U.S. Open and to win here again all these years later, just feels amazing. It’s been a hard few months with everything, but hopefully this is the turning point. I’d love to get a few more events on the tour and start competing fulltime again.”
While all four finalists surfed with unprecedented style and grace, it was the veteran natural-footer’s unmatched, patented power approach that saw him run away with the victory.
“The conditions of there were pretty tricky, but I think we all took the same approach of trying to get a quick noseride and then work the maneuvers all the way to the inside before another noseride,” McPhillips said. “My approach worked pretty well today, although it had to be adapted slightly to fit the conditions.”
The next stop on the 2007 ASP WQS will be the 6-Star Yumeha Billabong Pro Tahara in Japan from July 31 through August 5, 2007.
Honda U.S. Open of Surfing presented by O’Neill (Men) – ASP WQS 6-Star
Round 5: 16 surfers remaining (1st and 2nd advance)
Heat 3: Gabe Kling (USA) 15.83 def. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 10.77
Heat 4: Royden Bryson (ZAF) 11.83 def. Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 10.53
Heat 5: Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 17.50 def. Chris Davidson (AUS) 12.83
Heat 6: Dustin Cuizon (HAW) def. Yuri Sodre (BRA) 12.67
Heat 7: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.73 def. Simao Romao (BRA) 7.00
Heat 8: Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 12.83 def. Kirk Flintoff (AUS) 12.17
Quarterfinals: 8 surfers remaining (1st advances)
QF 1: Jean Da Silva (BRA) 13.43 def. Gabe Kling (USA) 10.33
QF 2: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 17.00 def. Royden Bryson (ZAF) 11.33
QF 3: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 14.90 def. Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 13.36
QF 4: Dustin Cuizon (HAW) 15.50 def. Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 10.26
Semifinals: 4 surfers remaining (1st and 2nd advance)
SF 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 17.34 def. Jean Da Silva (BRA) 12.93
SF 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 15.00 def. Dustin Cuizon (HAW) 14.33
1 – C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.60
2 – Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.17
Lost Pro Junior – ASP Grade 2 Pro Junior Final
1 – Tonino Benson (HAW) 13.94
2 – Chris Waring (USA) 12.87
3 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.17
4 – Mason Ho (HAW) 11.77
U.S. Open of Longboarding Final
1 – Colin McPhillips (USA) 18.00
2 – Taylor Jenson (USA) 15.53
3 – Cole Robbins (USA) 14.17
4 – Kai Sallas (HAW) 12.77