SANTA CRUZ, California/USA (Wednesday, October 31, 2012) – The world’s best surfers have arrived in Santa Cruz, California for the penultimate event of the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) season, the O’Neill Coldwater Classic at the iconic Steamer Lane.
A staple of the ASP’s qualifying circuit, the O’Neill Coldwater Classic has been sanctioned at the elite level of competition this season, celebrating the brand’s 60th anniversary of operations. The event will play a crucial role in both the 2012 ASP World Title Race and the requalification campaigns of the world’s best surfers and could commence as early as tomorrow.
Mick Fanning (AUS), 31, current No. 3 on the ASP WCT rankings, has two victories under his belt this season, but suffered two relatively early exits over his European campaign. After recharging his batteries at home following the last event Portugal, the polished natural-footer is out to rebound his ASP World Title hopes at the O’Neill Coldwater Classic.
“I like to sneak under the radar, but the last couple of events haven’t been the greatest for me,” Fanning said. “It was great to go home and readjust and refocus. I have a new quiver of boards and I’m excited to be here.”
Fanning’s appearance at this year’s event marks his first return to Santa Cruz in over a decade and the two-time ASP World Champion (2007, 2009) is excited to take on the challenges brought on by Steamer Lane’s ever-changing conditions.
“I think it’s great having this event on the schedule this year,” Fanning said. “The past few years, we’ve had The Search event and you go to new places and it’s great to have a new wave every time and learn the spot as you go through the rounds. This event has been around for a long time, but personally, I haven’t been here since 2000. It’s great to be back and every surfer will be learning, so it’s going to be exciting.”
John John Florence (HAW), 20, current ASP WCT No. 4, has extensive experience in the Steamer Lane lineup despite being one of the youngest competitors in the event. Despite his history with the venue, Florence made it a point to arrive early and reacquaint himself with the break.
“To prepare for this contest I arrive a few days early to get used to the cold water,” Florence said. “I’ve been coming here since I was pretty little to surf in the event and Santa Cruz is a cool place. Every year that I come here is a new learning curve for me and that’s why I came here a few days early to get used to it again. To be able to come here and watch everyone adapt to the colder water, and the Lane, it’s not an easy wave to surf, so it’s fun to watch everyone surf it.”
Florence has drawn Heitor Alves (BRA), 30, and Patrick Gudauskas (USA), 26, in the opening round of competition.
Miguel Pupo (BRA), 20, winner of last year’s ASP Prime rated O’Neill Coldwater Classic, returns to Steamer Lane as a Sophomore among the world’s best surfers and is ready to defend his title against his fellow ASP WCT competitors.
“It’s just great to be back,” Pupo said. “I love this place. Last year was a pretty challenging contest because we had a couple of days at Steamer Lane and a couple of days at Waddell Creek. I’m happy to be back in the water with my booties on.”
Pupo admitted that the younger surfers may have more recent experience at Steamer Lane via the ASP Prime rated event of the past, but the top level of competition on the ASP WCT will level the playing field.
“I think it’s good because I’ve been coming here the last four years and the young guys have as well because of the Prime,” Pupo said. “We kind of have that advantage, but the veterans have surfed here in the past too. Steamer Lane is a tricky wave and they probably know what to expect. Realistically, it’s the top 34 guys in the world, they surf every wave well, so I think it’s even.”
Nat Young (USA), 21, was electric in today’s local trials, stringing together a series of impeccable backhand performances to earn his berth in the main event, marking his first appearance in an ASP WCT.
“I knew it was going to be tough in the local trials,” Young said. “We have so many good surfers up here and everyone is capable of doing well and getting big scores. It was a long day and I’m really stoked. I’m against Kelly (Slater), so to be able to surf against my hero at my home break in my first WCT, it’s pretty special.”
Young joins Jason Collins (USA), 38, as the two wildcards into the O’Neill Coldwater Classic.
Event organizers will convene tomorrow at 7:15am to assess conditions for a possible 7:45am start.
Surfline, official forecasters for the O’Neill Coldwater Classic, have called for:
Fun size WNW swell is on track for the first day of the waiting period, Thursday the 1st, although morning wind conditions look problematic before improving over the afternoon. A slightly larger WNW swell is lining up for the afternoon of the 4th through the 6th along with favorable conditions, if the storm behaves as forecast in the next few days.
The O’Neill Coldwater Classic will be webcast LIVE via www.oneill.com/cwc/
For more info, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
O’NEILL COLDWATER CLASSIC ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS), Alejo Muniz (BRA), Taylor Knox (USA)
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Kai Otton (AUS), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW), Heitor Alves (BRA), Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS), Kieren Perrow (AUS), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 5: Kelly Slater (USA), Kolohe Andino (USA), Nat Young (USA)
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Damien Hobgood (USA), Jason Collins (USA)
Heat 7: Taj Burrow (AUS), Brett Simpson (USA), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 9: Owen Wright (AUS), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 10: Josh Kerr (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF), Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT)