Even as they came of age alongside some of the most influential, charismatic and culturally important surfers of all time, CJ and Damien Hobgood consistently stood out from the pack. But despite their respective accomplishments and accolades, the identical twins—habitually lumped together by the media, often referred to as simply “The Hobgoods”—struggled, individually, to differentiate themselves.
With “And If Two By Sea” a documentary that premiered in April, the identity issues related to competitive sibling relationships as well as CJ and Damo’s storied careers has been given a new narrative. Longtime Hobgood friend, director Justin Purser’s vision for telling such a tale diverges from the typical “paint by numbers” approach to storytelling and manages to pull no punches while offering plenty of punchlines. While broaching serious topics, with comedian Daniel Tosh serving as the film’s unreliable narrator, “And Two if By Sea” doesn’t take itself too seriously.
“First and foremost we knew from the get-go we were not going to make a surf video,” Purser said when asked him about his approach to making the film in piece for Surfer Magazine prior to the film’s release. “The goal was to make a real documentary telling the story of CJ and Damien’s relationship as identical twins through the backdrop of their careers, using as little surfing footage as possible to tell their story.
The film, which had been six years in the making before its premiere has been praised critically, as it offers a window into the lives—ups and plenty of downs—of two of Florida’s most famous surfing exports. On Thursday (September 25), Five Points’ Sun-Ray Cinema will host a special screening of the documentary with CJ in attendance.
The filmmakers, as well as CJ and Damo, have kept the spoilers on ice, but I rang CJ up the other morning to ask about the reaction to the film since its release this past spring.
So, you’ve been to a few premieres now. What’s the reaction to the movie been like?
It’s definitely an experience that is… oh man… it gets easier. We’ve done 20 or 30 at this point and I can see why people [who take part in movies like this] would not want to actually go see them with an audience. I feel like my gifts and strengths are enjoying people. But I was a little anxious about people seeing this movie. Even showing it to my family for the first time. It’s like four seasons in the span of ten to 15 minutes. You go from fearful to anxious to excited to over the moon. It’s an emotional rollercoaster every time. It’s like, it’s your story and you think you know it and own it, and then people see the movie and they take something completely different from it.
Right, and it’s interesting because you’ve probably been to a thousand premieres of films where you’re featured on screen. I imagine this feels like a much more vulnerable position than watching a film where you’re just shredding.
It is vulnerable, yeah. But, the response has gotten me over that hump. The fact the 70-year guy or the little kid, for everyone to walk away from it with something to hold onto, that’s what makes it worthwhile. The best is you have people who think they know what they are going to get from this movie—oh, it’s a surf movie. Then they get something completely different out of it.
You guys have kept a tight lid on the details of the movie. I’m not asking for any spoilers, but has there been a moment in the film that you were surprised audiences reacted the way they did?
The best part for us is, there’s a serious side to the movie, of course, but there is the comedy side with Daniel Tosh narrating. So seeing which audiences laugh the most has been fun. What’s crazy is the audiences in Hawaii were just dying laughing. They laughed at everything. And so hard.
The film delves into the distinct dynamics of not only sibling relationships, but twin relationships—yours and Damien’s being especially unique as professional surfers. I wondered if you’ve heard from people who’ve seen the movie who say they really identified with what you guys went through?
Yeah we try to do Q and A’s after each showing so we get to hear from the audiences. I hear a lot about identity issues within families. And then I hear a lot about losing your identity within surfing, or whatever your profession is. The cool thing is when people want to dive in deeper after we can elaborate on things in the film. There are things in there that people, whether surfer or not, can connect with.
I did want to ask you about the state of Florida (or East Coast) surfing. When you were on tour, there seemed to be a big spotlight on Florida. We have Caroline Marks on tour right now and there’s obviously always a ton of talent here. How’s the future look for Florida surfing?
That’s a great question. I’ll always say that Florida surfing in its own right, whether it’s recognized at the time, that doesn’t matter. There are always going to be great surfers and new crops of up and coming surfers here. Whether it’s Justin Quintal just owning the longboard scene or Caroline Marks working her way toward a World Championship, the spotlight will come back on Florida.