The much anticipated wait is almost over as the O’Neill Coldwater Classic has less than 24 hours until the first heat of the World Championship Tour event at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz. The event plays a critical role in the ASP WCT rankings and could possibly decide the 2012 World Champion. Local to Steamer Lane, Nat Young (USA) earned his wildcard spot in his first World Championship Tour event after performing a series of backhand maneuvers in the trials. He will be a favorite going into the competition at his home break, with thousands of fans cheering for the latest addition to the CWC.
“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.”
Currently ranked third in the world, Mick Fanning (AUS) has already proven twice this season he is capable of winning the WCT events. However, Fanning hasn’t forgotten about his two relatively early defeats in the European leg. After some time spent focused back home, the Australian natural footer has his eyes on the title.
“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.”
It has been more than 10 years since Fanning has visited Santa Cruz, California, and he is excited to be challenged at the fluctuating break of Steamer Lane where he will face Kieren Perrow (AUS) and Dusty Payne (HAW) in Round 1.
“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.”
At just 20 years of age, John John Florence is currently ranked fourth in the world and has accumulated the most experience out of anyone at Steamer Lane thus far. Florence arrived early to the competition site to be sure he was reacquainted with the break. Florence will face Heitor Alves (BRA) and Patrick Gudauskas (USA) in Round 1.
“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.”
Miguel Pupo (BRA) returns to Steamer Lane to defend his title against fellow ASP WCT competitors after he took home the win from the 2011 Prime event. The young Brazilian will face Owen Wright (AUS) and Yadin Nicol (AUS) when competition begins.
“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 explains the difference between surfing in the Prime event and facing the ASP WCT competitors. “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.”
When competition commences, up first will be Julian Wilson (AUS), 23, Alejo Muniz (BRA), 22, and Taylor Knox (USA), 41, in the opening heat of Round 1.
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)