Elite surfing twins have won millions in more than a decade on tour but are most stoked by spiritual answers
Professional surfers and identical twin brothers C.J. and Damien Hopgood have not attained the whole world, but one of them has something many surfers would find equally satisfying, a world championship.
Having qualified for the WCT three years earlier, CJ describes winning the 2001 WCT title as “One of the most incredible feelings I’ve ever had.”
However, a year before that title, CJ had another incredible experience, one that anyone can attain.
Interviewed by Christian Surfers International following his world title, CJ said, “I accepted Jesus Christ last year (in 2000) at Calvary Chapel in Melbourne. I find that when I know His will is being done in my life, satisfaction is guaranteed”.
When asked why he acknowledged God first after his title win, CJ said, “He pretty much is my life, and I try to be on His path. He has given me everything that I have; this has nothing to do with me at all. I’m stoked to be able to thank Jesus Christ for everything. I’m able to enjoy all I have so much more because of that.”
Always hungry for another world title, after being eliminated from the New York Quicksilver Pro and contention for the 2011 world title, CJ had a different response to most surfers.
He stated, “It’s definitely not a sad day. I don’t know what surfing holds for me, but I don’t want to be known as the 2001 world champ, I just want to be known as someone who loved Jesus and loved His friends and loved everything that was going on.”
CJ’s strong emphasis on spiritual fulfilment is reflected in his favourite Bible verse: “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36).
His brother Damien is known for having once held the highest two-wave grand final score in pro surfing by scoring 19.9 out of 20 (under the current ASP system) at The Quiksilver Pro Fiji in 2004 until Kelly Slater eclipsed it the following year at Teahupo’o in the final with a perfect 20.
Standing on the finalist’s podium in Brazil at the beginning of his career in 2000, Damien felt it was all too surreal. Instead of celebrating his second-place finish with fans and friends, he could never remember feeling so alone and empty inside.
Later that night, he strolled back down to an empty beach where he made a profound discovery.
“I heard the Lord say, no matter what you accomplish, you’re never going to be happy. It’s never going to be enough,” he says. “Right then, I prayed that I wanted to live for Him.”
While Hobgood had grown up in a Christian home, he had not seen the importance of having a close walk with Jesus until he personally experienced life without Him.
The surf magazines and videos have well documented Damien’s ability to almost look at ease in waves of serious consequence. While surfing extremely shallow reefs or in shark-infested waters is part of the job description, he shares how he is able to overcome his fears.
“For me, those dangerous situations actually increase my faith, so I am not sure I personally would have the kind of trust in Him that I do if I was sitting behind a desk,” he says.
“I have been in the water when people have died and it is definitely a reminder of how fragile life is. I had a really bad fall in Tahiti (2006) and when I came back, I remembered this line from a book that says that ‘if you are still alive, God has a purpose for your life today.’ That’s actually what helped me put that slam behind me.”
He has not only gone back to the scene of this accident, but has taken home first place (2007) in what many regard as the world’s most perilous wave.
When talking about his life, he shares how God has made Himself real to him.
“Well, I am not the best surfer in the world or the best athlete, so for me to go out and win heats shows His power,” Damien says.
“I am also the ‘world’s worst public speaker,’” he adds with a laugh, “so whenever I speak somewhere like at a church, I definitely know it’s Him and not me.”
For those who are still seeking spiritual truth, Damien has this advice.
“I can tell you about my experiences, but that may all seem like a bunch of hot air until you experience it for yourself. You gotta do your homework, and if you search deep enough He will reveal Himself to you.”
Courtesy Christian Surfers International and Sports Spectrum