The O’Neill Coldwater Classic preview
The competitive surfing world’s focus turns this week to Santa Cruz California for the penultimate event of this year’s World Championship Tour, the O’Neill Coldwater Classic.
With some pushing for the World Title and others competing for their livelihoods and re-qualification for next year’s WCT, there is plenty at stake for the 36 surfers.
The location for this event is Steamer Lane Santa Cruz, which offers a number of different waves depending on size and swell direction. In huge conditions, the outer reef provides heavy lefts and rights which would make for a great viewing spectacle for those on the cliffs and webcast alike.
Most likely however the competition will take place at The Point, a wave hyped as a “powerful and consistent” right hand point break, which if lives up to reputation will produce some excellent waves suited to the remaining surfers in world title contention.
However if Steamer Lane doesn’t fire (as it didn’t in its 2011 edition) and the comp is moved to the alternate site, it really opens it up to who gets the luck of the waves (and the judging) at a shifty beach break.
In terms of the World Tour, Australia’s Joel Parkinson sits in the box seat for this year’s crown, and if a fairly unlikely series of results take place he could wrap up the title with a victory at Steamer Lane.
However a slip up in this event would well and truly open the door for his main title rivals, Kelly Slater (USA), Mick Fanning (AUS) and John John Florence (HAW) heading into the season ending Pipeline comp in Hawaii.
At the other end of the spectrum there are 10 surfers that will be dropped off the tour at seasons end. Any of the guys in or near the drop zone will be looking for a big result at Steamer Lane to keep their WCT dreams alive and could well cause some problems for the top seeds.
Young Australian Matt Wilkinson is a previous winner of this event and will hopefully pull out a big performance (rather than just his wacky new tie-dyed print wetsuit). I’d look for Kolohe Andino (USA) to continue his recent strong run and guarantee his tour re-qualification with a good result here.
In between there are a number of surfers whose years and title charges haven’t quite gone to plan but you can be sure will be in the running as the event comes to a close.
Keep an eye out for Julian Wilson (AUS) to go for back-to-back event wins for the first time in his career, Gabriel Medina (BRA) to look for revenge after controversially losing the last event, and O’Neill team rider and major 2012 underachiever Jordy Smith (RSA) to light it up if The Point gets going.
Santa Cruz local and owner of one of the best nicknames in surfing Jason “Ratboy” Collins has been given one of two available wildcards for the event, with trials to be run in the coming days for the final competition spot.
The 2008 winner of the event, 20-year-old Nat Young, would be a very dangerous addition to the main draw if successful over the mix of Santa Cruz locals and O’Neill team riders competing in the trials.
The waiting period starts November 1 and a winner will be crowned some time before November 11.