Hobie Call Retires From Obstacle Racing

 

Hobie Call stands alone

Hobie Call is no longer obstacle racing.

Let that sink in.

The man who, many reading this will attribute their start in OCR, is going back to work in the field of heating and air conditioning.

In a forthcoming story on the collapse of Atlas Race, Hobie tells Obstacle Racing Media about thousands of dollars that he is owed, and how this latest disappointment has led to his exit. He told us:

The last 3 1/2 years of making a living in the world of OCR has been quite a roller-coaster. Amazing highs, and high pressure lows….I’m actually excited to get my feet back on stable ground for a while. So thus starting tomorrow morning I am going back to HVAC.

So, to those in the world of OCR… Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!

If Hobie didn’t inspire you to do your first OCR race, his image was still most likely one of the first that you saw.

You googled Spartan Race or Tough Mudder and started watching videos to see if you were ready to do this crazy thing called an obstacle race. Even though you hadn’t done a pull up since high-school, and you despised running, something drew you to check it out.

You saw different people, of all shapes and sizes going up ropes and under barbed wire.

You started to believe you could, maybe, actually do this.

Then you saw someone, a sinewy man in his 30s with no shirt and a shaved head. What was that guy doing!?

He was flying through these obstacles. He did stuff you’d never seen.

He rolled under that barbed wire faster than any human had ever crawled. He flipped over walls instead of climbing down them. He started climbing a rope and then about 3/4 of the way up, he in inverted his whole body and KICKED THE BELL!

You were fascinated, what’s this dude’s name!?  His name is Hobie Call and he’s like the best there is at this thing.

Despite having so many fears about registering for your first race, you signed up anyway.

As the weeks passed, you were getting more and more excited about the race. You’ve been running a few miles every week and putting in a few extra workouts.

New Spartan videos kept coming out. This Hobie guy was still winning.

More time passes and you’ve made friends from work or the gym, and formed a team to take on this first race. Hobie – still number one.

HobieChecks

Finally, race day is here. I can’t begin to tell you what happened next because you have the story of your first OCR. You loved (and sometimes hated) every second of it. You may tell that story over and over again.

The part you don’t necessarily tell every time is what happened in the festival area after your first race.  You were going to buy a beer or a sandwich and you saw a few people gathered around someone.

As you got closer, you saw…was that?…it was. That’s Hobie Call.

You patiently waited your turn and sheepishly said hello. It turned out not only was he the best in the world in OCR, he was also humble, and gracious, and kind. You got your picture taken with him and immediately posted it on Facebook. (Well, as soon as you got signal you did).

Hobie would often spend the entire afternoon out in the festival area. He would shake every hand and take every picture. He would answer every question about nutrition, or shoes, or whatever else people asked him.

Many attribute the rapid growth of Spartan Race at least somewhat to the popularity of Hobie Call. Some have even gone on to compare Hobie and Spartan to Michael Jordan and Nike. Or more specifically to Michael Jordan and (Nike CEO) Phil Knight. In Hobie’s case, Spartan CEO, Joe De Sena.

That each one was less powerful on their own, but together, a global brand was born.

Things worked out really well for both Michael and Phil, but for Joe and Hobie, not so much.

Some other day, we can go through the questionable business decisions that Hobie made or didn’t make. We can talk about his journey from Spartan, to Extreme Nation to BattleFrog, and ultimately, Atlas Race.

Today, let’s celebrate Hobie for what he is. The most dominant obstacle racer who ever lived. The word dominate gets thrown around a lot in sports. However, for Hobie, there is not a more perfect word.

Just as time passing and poor decisions won’t change Tiger Woods dominating his sport for so many years or Arnold Schwarzenegger dominating his, Hobie was the first true champion of our sport, and nothing can change that.

The video below sums it up pretty well.

We’d love to hear from you. Comment and let us know about your encounters with Hobie or how he inspired you.

*Photos courtesy of Hobie Call, Spartan Race

Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.

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Comments

  1. Stephen Sinek says:

    Sad news because I’m sure this time it will stick. Your retelling of the scenario was pretty close to how it went down for me too. He was always humble and open to chat, never with an air of cockiness that you might expect from somebody who at the time was unbeatable. It always struck me as tragic, that somebody of his talent was not able to make a living in the sport. Perhaps his time in the game was just too early, before any real money came to the scene. But it makes you wonder if he couldn’t make it happen, how can any of us? I feel like I’m writing eulogy or something. Like him or not, Hobie is one of the greats and will be missed by many.

    • Thankfully folks like Joe D are trying to legitimize the sport some more so that people can make a living off of it. Somebody will take his place and go a little further.

  2. I, my wife and friend, Jason, first met Hobie at the Georgia Spartan Sprint in 2012. After seeing him dominate the race followed closely and second my Alec Blenis, we stepped over to talk to him after the race. We approached him like he was a rOCkstaR to get pictures with the athlete, but quickly found the personable man behind the persona. I have been fortunate to have a number of personal and on-line conversations with Hobie. I learned much and gained a friend. Thanks mucho, Hobie. Long live the king, born of legend. See you out in Utah sometime!

  3. I had the pleasure of meeting Hobie at the 2013 VA Super. He was gracious, spent about 20 minutes just talking with me and even gave me a hug at the end of the race. He has been a huge inspiration of mine. I will miss seeing him in the OCR community but I am sure his spirit and motivation will continue to inspire no matter what craziness he is engaged in. Thanks for everything!

  4. Always great to read your thoughts Matt. Sadly this op-eds only info was the headline. Throw some meat on the bone. Love us brother keep up the good work.

  5. John Richard Tackett says:

    When I got into OCR’s, Hobie was the face of the sport. Then finally met him at the 2014 Battlefrog in Atlanta and was so impressed by how down to earth he was. Was so excited to post my picture with Hobie. He helped put the sport of OCR on the radar screen. If there is ever an OCR Hall of Fame, he deserves to be in it.

  6. German Hayles says:

    To Hobie

    AROO AROO AROO!!!

  7. Hey Hobie, best of luck with the HVAC business. I hope you will consider taking a weekend to come and run in Savage Race PRO heat. We are giving prize cash at every event, and we always pay on race day.

  8. Matt Reynolds says:

    Hobie, you will always be the greatest. Without you pushing me do my first Spartan at 428 lbs , I would never have accomplished it. This is a life you have changed forever. I appreciate your humility and respect of the sport. GOD BLESS you brother!!!

  9. Chris ayangco says:

    Hobie is a great person, one of the reasons why I signed up for the 2011 spartan race Malibu. I’m glad I was able to meet him a few time personally and yes, he is an approachable and humble person. It would have been nice for him to continue doing more spartan races, maybe throwing prize money for winning has changed the world of obstacle racing. But races aren’t cheap and they aren’t free, I’m just surprised he wasn’t able to get enough sponsors like all of the other elite ocr racers I see getting perks. Maybe that just wasn’t him and maybe he had good reasons for turning down offers and deals that some of us will never know or understand. But he will forever be a positive reason in my life on why I started doing obstacle races and I believe there will never be another person like hobie who could dominate the ocr world like he did.

  10. Dustin Webb says:

    I was inspired by Hobie to get back into running, mud, and adventure. Many don’t know this about me but I lost my hearing and use of my balance nerve in my right ear 6 years ago. I thought what options does a guy in his mid 30s have? I used to love running and competition. I was challenged by a friend to do a warrior dash and researched obstacle racing and found this this guy who was my age with a similar build, winning all these races. I was so moved that I decided to go all in and stop feeling sorry for myself and run again…and found I was competitive even with my disability. My circumstances don’t define me but help to shape me into the person I am today. Hobie helped me (via Facebook) build my own obstacle wall and inspired me to go into personal training and inspire others.

  11. Michael huff says:

    I met Hobie at the 2013 wintergreen super ,
    Unfortunately I was volunteering at the time
    And didn’t get to talk very long to him but he
    did stop during a race that he finished 2nd
    in and talk . He is the first person that I
    started to recognize in every race promotion
    for spartan and superhero .

  12. Dan Krueger says:

    Hobie is an incredible athlete and a genuine person. He’ll be back! This is like The Who or The Stones announcing their retirement and last show. He won’t be able to stay away for long!

  13. Drew Battista says:

    Although I wish he weren’t leaving the sport (and remain optimistic that he’ll show up again somewhere), Hobie has a knack for finding amazing things to do: Olympic marathon trials, Pikes Peak Ascent (race), lunge mile record, etc. Don’t think this is the last you’ll hear from Hobie Call !

  14. The video says it all. Matt, you are right, it is a great tribute to Hobie and a great retrospective on obstacle racing circa 2011/2012. I had the honor on standing on the podium with him in those days and racing on a team with him at the Superhero. He is a legend. And as someone commented already, i doubt we have seen the last of Hobie’s athletic accomplishments.

  15. Christian Griffith says:

    I don’t think its sad at all.

    Good for him. Hardly a one-triick pony, I’m sure Hobie will find a new sport genre to wreck and shred.

    Personally, I’ll be rooting for dude to make good on the sub 2:00 marathon. That would be sick.

  16. He is an unbelievable athlete. Regardless of what happened with him and Spartan Race, Joe De Sena said this in 2014 in an interview with Comcast Sports, “It’s interesting — ‘spartan’ means less is more in a lot of ways,” De Sena says. “They were pretty stripped-down people back in 431 B.C., right? Hobie has five children, and I think he’s a pretty stripped-down guy. He lives a pretty basic life. He doesn’t really have much as far as material things. He’s a family man, he’s honorable, and he’s a good guy. These are all good qualities to have.” No matter what Hobie’s profession is now, we can all live by his example: be humble, less materialistic, honorable, and good people.

  17. Wheatgrass would have never been as popular without Hobie Call.

  18. Steven Mosier says:

    Hobie Call was our Caballo Blanco!!!
    My first Spartan was in Brooklyn in the summer of 2010 after a cycling injury nearly ended my life. The rush that mixed movements, on slippery slopes and obstacles brought me to a new feeling of being alive, I was hooked. At every start line everyone whispers, “hey you should see Hobie, and how he does it, look him up on youtube, mind-blowing”.

    Hobie was our silent trainer for a sport that didn’t have SGX and OCR Gyms at that point.

    Cheers to future endeavors Mr. Call!

  19. Reggie Rowe says:

    We first met Hobie in 2012 at the Texas Beast. He was rabbiting the kids race that my daughter was running in. This was one of her first two races, so she took a long time to finish. In fact, by the time she finished there was nobody left on the course to hand out the finishers medals. Hobie was standing nearby and saw that she had finished, but didn’t get a medal. He said wait right here and then went to look for whoever was in charge. A few minutes later she was awarded her medal and got to meet “the greatest obstacle racer that ever lived”. Although these are her words, I think they are pretty accurate. The first time I saw him race was a 9 months earlier at the Georgia Sprint. I have never seen anyone negotiate barbed wire as fast as he did. It’s just different when you see it in person. As others have said, I watched all of the videos. This was just much faster. Best of luck Hobie and thanks for the inspiration!

  20. Hobie,
    Well done and well said my friend! I always knew you would make a difference in the world and I’ve loved watching you help make Obstacle racing what it is today! You’re the best and I know you’re just taking a break, for now……….

  21. Sorry to hear that, hope he still comes to events. I met him for the first time at the Malibu Spartan Sprint, what surprised me, was I needed no introduction, as he knew about the man who wears suits. I met on several occasions, always very welcoming.
    The video you included, speaks wonders about his mastery of obstacle racing and is one of my favorites as it even had a cameo of that suitman which always makes me cry as it’s an undeserved honor to be included with the great athletes in this video like Hobie.

  22. RANDY BRACE says:

    A sad day indeed. An inspiration to all, a friend to anyone who’s met him, and the nicest badass on the planet. . Good luck and hope to see you out there again someday, Hobbie.

  23. I battled with Hobie on his extreme nation team. He was always so humble and inspiring. He followed his dream for everything it was worth and made himself an icon. When the sport gets announcers my first pick will be someone with his knowledge and experience. Best Wishes Hobie.

  24. The guy was/is the real deal. He had awesome natural talent for OCR; speed to run, ability to manage the obstacles. He owned this sport for several years and showed what others could do with it IF they took it serious. And others did start to take it serious, the sport grew and the game changed. He evolved and still owned it to some degree, but as a long term athlete and long time Spartan Racer (since day 1 in SoCal 5-+ years ago) I fully understand the time comes in every athletes life where a change is needed. Ironically, I changed out of my keystone sport into OCR, to bad to see him leave OCR…. maybe… he is a weird cat, so who knows what he is “really” up to 😉 Arooo beotches.

  25. HOBIE CALL

    He was awesome to watch. He came literally out of nowhere while I was mulling around our first Southern California event. His dad approached me and said “Do you want to meet the winner of your race today? I said “sure” and he introduced me to Hobie who was warming up and about to show me what he was all about.

    He did not disappoint in fact, race after race after race was no contest. He was humble, honest, and extremely dedicated, all the attributes you would expect of a great athlete. He has a wonderful family and I still remember the day his son called me up (probably 10 at the time) and said “Hi, since my dad won so many races and he sold my toys to pay for travel do you mind sending us a TV?” It was probably the best phone call I ever received aside from my now wife calling me back after asking her out and her saying yes.

    Did Hobie go wrong anywhere along the way? Only he knows, he had a great run (or many) and he pulled so many young folks into the sport, he convinced his wife to become an elite, so who is to say anything went wrong? It might have gone just the way he planned it.

    For me, I hope to see this sport in the Olympics some day, Hobie would definitely be by my side along with all the other elites and we would be smiling ear to ear. Maybe its time he should become an anchor on our TV show, or give some color to the audience on what is going on during the events, he certainly knows a lot about what it takes to be on top.

    They tell me its easier to get on top than it is to stay on top. I think nothing great is ever easy.

  26. Garfield Griffiths says:

    As with most of us I am a big fan of Hobie Call’s, his abilities and more importantly what he’s done for the sport. However there is another side to Hobie.. And it’s not pretty. In 2014 I challenged him to a head-to-head race on the inflatable kids obstacle course at BattleFrog South Carolina last year.. he totally cheated and owes me a rematch. So there, he can’t retire just yet.

  27. Dave Allen says:

    Met Hobie briefly after the 2011 Super Spartan in Staten Island (yes, he won), very humble & & seemed like quite the stand up guy. Good luck in your future endeavors!

  28. Andy Woodall says:

    Hobie once gave me great advice on how to rehabilitate my torn rotater cuff. It went from frozen to 85 percent useful and now i am back to racing…..Thanks hobie and God Bless.

    -Andy Woodall

  29. Hobie and I go way back. He has used my weight vests for training. One day Hobie came by my shop with his wife and kids. We had a good talk and photo. I wished Hobie the best. He really is a big inspiration to the sport of OCR and will be forever an icon to be admired.

  30. Ryno Spartino says:

    I guess it’s not true, or short-lived. He is racing Spartan Breckenridge.

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