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Jeff Hubbard

Jeff Hubbard, born and grown up on Hawaii is one of the best athletes in the current period of bodyboarding. Constantly pushing the sport to new levels he has made itself a name with outstanding high aerials and an incomparable style. By winning the 2006 IBA World Tour he crowned himself on the top of the world and took credit for his hard training, discipline and sacrificing lifestyle. Just at the end of 2009 he confirmed his skills by winning the crown the second time. He willingly answered a couple of questions and delivered us a short insight into the life of a champ, yet being a living legend among the small and tight community of bodyboarders around the globe! Thanks for that!

Here we go!

Q: How long do you bodyboard for and what and how was your first contact with a bodyboard?! What is or was the biggest influence to start with bodyboarding and who where you idols?

Jeff: I have been bodyboarding for 20 years. We grew up surfing Kalapaki beach on Kauai. Our dad would take us and our friends down and we would just have a blast playing around in the variety of waves in that bay. Later we were looking up to Kaipo Jaquias as he was a pro surfer from our area. But the major influences were the pro bodyboarders from Kauai like Chris Burkhart and Kyle Maligro. They showed us it was possible to get paid doing what you loved.

Q: What is your favorite spot?

Jeff: Teahupoo, Shark Island, El Fronton, Nuggan, North Point. These waves are pretty amazing, as well as Pipeline, Sandsy and a few waves on the outer islands.

Q: What are you current sponsors and what do you ride on?

Jeff: BZ Bodyboards, Churchill Swim Fins, Ocean Current Clothing ,662 Board Stores, Vertra Sun Care and I ride a 41 BZ Hubb Fundamental and use Hubb Churchill Makapu’u fins.

Q: What do you do to stay in shape? I stretch a lot.

Jeff: I wake up and do a stretch and core routine every morning and then go surf the rest of the day (waves permitting). I have done Bikram, Yoga and swimming in the past as well.

Q: Let's talk about the 2009 IBA Tour, you won your second world title after 2006. The tour started with the Grand Slam at your home spot Pipeline. It didn't work out too well for you on your favourite wave. Actually, it was your worst Grand Slam result in 2009. How important is a good start for you and what did you think after the event? Was it motivation to compete harder, to train even more or was it a little bit like a first setback?

Jeff: Yes, it was a bummer for sure not doing so well at my favourite spot. I just did not compete well at all and that gave me some real motivation to practice harder and to really take things not to serious and to just have fun during the year.

Q: So you were too ambitious in a way and that lamed you?

Jeff: Definitely to amped..

Q: During the season your results improved. You ended up in the first place at the Sintra Pro and were third at Arica. Together with Confital, these were the three Grand Slams you took to the results. Why didn't it workout at Pipe and how much relieved have you been after the second Arica Grand Slam?

Jeff: I just froze up at pipeline! The waves were not the best but I really just did not surf at all catching only one wave in my heat. After Arica I was more comfortable but still hungry to win a grand slam and now thinking I could win the tour, but I knew I would have to do well in Europe.

Q: You only competed on three other events. Mike Stewart for example took nearly every competition of the tour. Obviously, this was enough for you, but since it was that close in the end, it could have been really bad. How do you decide on which and how much contests you're competing during the tour?

Jeff: I choose my events based mainly on cost and also wave quality. I did just to what I could afford to do time and money wise. Also we compete in a variety of conditions on tour from small beach breaks to heavy slabbing reefs so my favourite contests are the ones where the level of competition is so high because of the high quality of surf. It makes me step up my game and have to surf at the highest level.

Q: So in the end of 2009 it was a bit like 2006. A couple of riders were still able to reach the crown. But unlike 2006 you were eliminated relatively early during the final event. But also some of your competitors were and Mike was the only one to kick you off the first place. Therefore it wasn't in your hands. How did it feel like to stand outside at the dry shore and and to helplessly watch the finals?

Jeff: I placed equal 9th in Confital and in the next round all my other competitors lost out too thus making me the champ. It was a tough time and I do not recommend this way to win a title. It is better to have total control, I did not like feeling so helpless.

Q: In the end it was pure tension. Hugo scored kind of "seconds" before finish and left Mike on the second place and hence crowned you as the champ 2009. Compared to 2006 ( when you didn't notice you were the champ until you reached the shore and you were told so), which title felt better, which one was more amazing, more exciting whatsoever and how important was that for you to confirm to be the best on the planet?

Jeff: It felt amazing when I realized I won. No real difference as both times they were indescribable, really a wave of so many emotions, mostly but pure joy. So the 2009 title felt equally as good as it was won under different circumstances. winning at home being the underdog in front of family and friends like 2006 is priceless but also thinking you lost the title one day and then winning it the next was also a really special feeling.

Q: What role were the tours 2007 and 2008 playing? 2006 were the year, in which you reached all your goals, the "trifecta" as you called it, to be Hawaiian Champions, US Champion and world champion. Was it like all the pressure and your expectations in yourself fell off from you and maybe the motivation or the seriousness dropped a little bit?! Or was it just like that the others were better and you were kind of stagnating?

Jeff: Well, in 2007 I had so much bad luck,it was crazy! My boards were lost like three times by the airlines that year and the waves were kind of bad. Except for shark island where I got 4th in the final! And we did not have pipe that year and I did not even go to the final event. In 2008 I got second at pipe and second at chile and did not really do to many other events just the minimum required and the waves were horrible again in every other event. So i think it was just that I was less motivated in those poor wave situations.

Q: What about bodyboarding as a sport itself? As a non-professional boarder all the videos, photos and that stuff suggest that it is pure fun. Travelling around the world, hanging' out with some friends, experiencing different cultures, people and so on. But, you know, when I first read your article or diary in Riptide where you described your way to the 2006 world title I realized that this is really hard work and more like a professional sportsman in general. You gotta train hard, because it's your job and of course you have to sacrifice yourself in a few things, like you wrote, alcohol, nutrition and so on! How do you experience all that?

Jeff: Yeah, it is so much fun and the best job on earth to be a professional bodyboarder. But if you want to be the best you have to take it serious. I don't get to do as many fun photo or video trips, mainly contest since I only have so much money to spend on travel. Also you have to train a lot in all conditions and give up certain things in order to be the best. This is a job and how I earn my living I want to be successful at that and make sure I can have this job for a long time to come.

Q: So, for how long do you want to compete on the tour? Is there kind of a plan or just as long as you can? How do other boarders get the money to do all the trips videos and photo-shoots!? It's not just sponsoring isn't it? What about the life after being a pro? Any plans?

Jeff: I want to compete on tour as long as possible. It is a great life. Other boarders mainly work and then go on trips or the best ones get money from sponsors to go on trips. Life after a pro for me would be like working in the industry in some capacity consulting for companies.

Q: Are you still going the way you have chosen in 2006 and train that hard? I mean, you have got a family as well (or at least a wife, don't know if you already a farther) and that doesn't cope with training 24/7? How do you get along with al these things? You also made a college degree while training and competing on the tour. Allover, that must have been really exhausting, wasn't it?

Jeff: Yes, in both 2006 and 2009 it was exhausting by the end of it. I was mentally exhausted in 2009 while in 2006 more so physically and emotionally exhausted. I had more fun on tour in 2009, it only really started being stressful towards the end. I am very lucky my wife is so supportive. Many people don't have that level of support so they can't do these amazing things I can. My wife and family are so awesome and loving and would definitely not have had two world titles without them.

Q: You mentioned your family! How does it feel to hold two world titles in the Hubbard family? Your brother is DK-champ for the forth time now, is there kind of a competition between you and him who collects the most titles?!?! By the way, ever tried a DK-rollo;-)?

Jeff: Yes, I have tried a DK rollo, did not make it :0. My brother is my biggest competition I would say, because he is so talented, unpredictable and so competitive. So, we are competitive, but it is very positive for both of us.

Q: Additionally, you put yourself in life threatening situations again and again and to be honest, injuries are a common thing in every sport. What does your family and your friends think about it and what role does fear play in those situations? Or if it's not fear anymore, at least respect?!

Jeff: Yes, it is my job to be out here in these life threatening situations, but I am happy to do it since I love my job. I believe in god and know he has an agenda so to speak for me so I train hard and keep my body in the best shape and take calculated risks but at the end of the day living and dying is out of my hands. I think some people appreciate what I go through and some people have an idea. I am In the water all day with sharks, I am driving and flying all over the world in remote places to find and surf crazy waves. I'm in the sun all day so skin cancer and premature ageing become an issue and of course then you have the waves and reefs and people to deal with in the water on a daily basis. As well as the idea that you are going out there and doing some crazy stuff like flying upside down 10-15 feet in the air and landing on nothing but a hard piece of foam.

Q: How important are near-death experiences?! Do you then need a couple of days surfing to forget or how is it?!

Jeff: They are very humbling and important to have to realize how great life is. You need to get back out there soon so it does not effect you long term.

Q: Of course as a German Bodyboarder you have to travel a lot to get some "really" good waves, since that doesn't happen too often at the German shores. At the most shores there are no problems if you respect the people and follow some basic rules, but at some it doesn't work out. As Pipe is some of the most frequented spots of the world, localism is for sure an every day experience for you I could imagine. Not that you're involved but probably see it everyday? How is that and what do you think about all these stand-up vs. bodyboard-stuff?!

Jeff: It is not stand-up vs. bodyboarder, it is just man vs. man, local versus non local, pro vs. kook I think.

Q: What do you think about the whole bodyboard-scene? It is really small compared to the stand-up-surfing scene and people seem to be more down-to-earth, at least in average. It lost some strength compared to the 90's, though!

Jeff: The sport is an underground sport nowadays with little recognition. But it is hardcore this way and it stays true to its roots of helping people and have fun riding waves, while surfing seems to be more image based these days. I think for it to regain its strength it just needs to find its niches and strengths and really focus on those aspects. I feel I can help bring some recognition to the sport and help people take notice of how exciting it is to watch and fun it is to be a part of this tight community.

Thank you very much for your time and good luck on the 2010 IBA tour!

Interview durchgeführt von Lars Paeger, Köllefornia.
Bilder sind freundliche Leihgabe von Jeff Hubbard.