An abundance of big waves pound paradise

Gary Kewley
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Friday - December 12, 2008
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Here’s CJ Hobgood, winner of the O’Neill World Cup, which was contested in huge Sunset surf

Aloha, surfers!

Let’s see what has for definitions of paradise: “A place of bliss; a region of supreme felicity or delight; hence, a state of happiness.”

I also like this one: “The earth shall be all paradise.” - Milton.

Indeed, surfers have been blessed in the abundance of paradise these days. The waves keep waving their magic wand over Hawaii - bringing the definition of paradise into focus.

The only glitch could be that there are too many waves - and they’re too big! Pick a place in the world that just had three - back to back - warning level swells of over 25 feet, crest to trough. Hawaii just did - in less than two weeks! There were some waves of near 20 feet at Waimea Bay late Tuesday (Dec 2).

Outer reefs hit that mark as well with peak crest to troughs, or faces ,of about 35 feet! I was out there last week with a friend, commenting how it would be nice if the waves dropped.


Most surfers ‘round the globe pray for the surf to come up, but I was praying for the surf to go down.

The whole vibe is elevated when the world’s best competitive surfers go off the hook in such death-defying (or at least, health-defying) conditions.

Sunset Beach provided its very best waves for the very best surfers last week for the grand finale of the O’Neill World Cup. Usually Sunset closes out at 15 feet, but this time there were plenty to ride at this size. I swear one wave looked like Waimea Bay - at about 18 feet, holding top to bottom and pealing! Big-wave maestro and commentator Pete Mel of Santa Cruz made the same observation: “Look at that ... it’s like Waimea!”

Many times during the day the waves washed out and through the lineup, sending everyone scurrying for the channel or bailing under the mountainous white water. Many boards were broken, not to mention some dreams of success ...

Check this out: The guy who won the O’Neill World Cup is from Florida (Kelly Slater’s home) and surfed with his back to the 10- to 15-foot waves! Meet 5-foot-8-inch, 150-pound CJ Hobgood, the 2001 world champ. The last “backsider” to win was in 1997: Mike Rommelse of Australia, but in smaller conditions.

Sunset is already hard enough to gauge and gouge facing the beast. Because of the maxing size he won it in, CJ has catapulted his already awesome career up to the next level.

CJ, 29, and and wife Rachel have a baby girl named Genevieve. They’re devout Christians, and CJ lives a clean, humble life - and just happens to be one of America’s greatest surfer exports. The talented family man knows how to stick to it; he’s been traveling the world on tour since 1997. CJ has never once dropped outside the top 20. Five of those years he’s been top 10. This year he looks good for top five.

On winning the World Cup: “Just some macking nuts waves out there ... My usual experience out at Sunset is just getting worked pretty much. This ranks up there with my WT wins and everything else because I never totally pictured myself winning this contest, so it ranks that much higher.

“That just shows you what Sunset can do. You just roll the dice, go out and sometimes Mother Nature is good to you, and other times she just beats you down. There are four guys out there, but you never really see your competitors the whole time. It’s man vs. nature out there, and that’s what makes Sunset so challenging and appealing.”

We started the Billabong Pipeline Masters on Tuesday Dec. 8 - a “don’t miss this for your life” event! Just three days of competition total and we’re done for the year. Check 596-SURF and 638-RUSH or for ON or OFF status daily.

Lastly, mark this date and be there: this Saturday, Dec. 13, at Haleiwa Joe’s, the North Shore Life Guard Benefit.

Also, log on to get in on the surf flick doing a statewide tour. CJ Hobgood is making guest appearances.

GQ, dropping in 4 U!

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