In addition to earning his best finish so far this year -- the last of his World Tour career -- veteran C.J. Hobgood (USA) also walked away from the Billabong Pro Tahiti with Billabong's coveted Andy Irons Most Committed Performance Award. The honor commemorates the late Andy Irons and is awarded each year to the competitor who demonstrates the most commitment, passion, and raw courage.
"To have the opportunity to be here and compete and be part of the Final day is just so rad," said Hobgood. "I think I'm as stoked as if I won the event. It was really, really fun, enjoyable and challenging to be here every year and be part of the learning curve at Teahupo'o over the last two decades. That means a lot to me right there."
"Last time I made the Final out here was with Andy (in 2010) when he won and he was really emotional," he continued. "That moment I shared with him will be with me for the rest of my life."
It's been nearly five years since professional surfing lost Irons. He is one of the sport's heroes who left his mark on both the Championship Tour (CT) and Teahupo'o in particular. The annual award in his honor was first given at the 2011 Billabong Pro Tahiti, after Irons's death the previous Fall.
Irons joined the CT in 1998. Over the course of his career, he collected 20 elite Tour victories, four Triple Crown of Surfing titles, and three consecutive World Titles. In addition, he claimed two Billabong Pro Tahiti titles, the last in 2010, just months before he passed away.
But Irons's stamp on Tahiti had little to do with his record and everything to do with his fearless approach to the infamous break. His performances at Teahupo'o were groundbreaking and his commitment unparalleled. Tahiti was the site of his first event win and the last man-on-man heat he would share with his biggest rival, Kelly Slater (USA).
Billabong's A.I. Most Committed Performance Award honors this spirit and approach to competition during the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Current CT competitor Jeremy Flores (FRA) won the inaugural award, followed by the late Ricardo dos Santos of Brazil in 2012, John John Florence (HAW) in 2013 and Owen Wright last year. The winner of this year's award was decided by a panel that included Martin Potter, Ross Williams, Strider Wasilewski and WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow.