It’s winner takes all for unsponsored surfers at O’Neill Coldwater Classic

When the O’Neill Coldwater Classic gets started in Santa Cruz, California, Wednesday the surfers carving the green walls of Steamer Lane will look quite different than they have in the 25 years the event has been running. That’s because the contestants lack a major sponsor, so the noses of their boards will be free of sponsor logos at they hit the lip and fly through the air. The 16 surfers in the event are a mix of 12 highly ranked, under-sponsored WQS surfers, such as Granger Larsen, Stuart Kennedy, and Dion Atkinson, along with four winners of an online video poll. They’re vying for a unique, winner-take-all prize—a $50,000, year-long sponsorship from O’Neill that includes travel costs, contest entries, and even a personal cameraman.

Huntington Beach, California’s Billy Hopkins is one of the four surfers to earn a spot into the event via the online poll. The aggressive surfing in his video—deep bottom turns mixed with big airs—got him in the contest alongside other largely unknown surfers such as Quinn McCrystal, Noi Kaulukukui, and Andrew Jacobson. Hopkins, 21, works as a server at a restaurant in Seal Beach to fund his surfing dreams. It goes without saying that winning this event would be a life changer for him. “It’s so cool that O’Neill has given us this opportunity to make it,” says Hopkins. “It’s so fun traveling, seeing the world, doing contests, and pushing yourself. I traveled more when I was a kid and would love to win this contest and see where my surfing can take me. I’ve been up here in Santa Cruz for a week already, and I’m so excited to surf tomorrow.”

A 4- to 6-foot northwest swell is on its way and this should make for highly contestable conditions at Steamer Lane. The event will run tomorrow and will likely finish on Thursday.

Here are the videos of the three other online-poll-winning surfers.

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