SANTA CRUZ, California — The O’Neill Cold Water Classic, known for rugged conditions and chilly water since its inception in 1987, returns to Santa Cruz, Calif. October 23 to 27, 2002. More than $32,500 in cumulative purses are at stake as America’s top rising stars and several noted big wave legends square off in the men’s and women’s World Qualifying Series (WQS)-rated event.
The cold water and rugged conditions at Steamer Lane have become a right of passage for aspiring professionals as they tackle both the elements and the world-class surf stars. The arena-like setting for the famed reef/point break has been the setting for classic showdowns over the years in the backyard of the world’s original surf company. “Santa Cruz is our home and surfing is the heart and soul of O’Neill’s business, said Rick Petri, marketing director for Irvine, Calif.-based O’Neill Clothing. “The Cold Water Classic and its rugged conditions are a key part of our heritage.
Big wave legends Mike Parsons (San Clemente), Peter Mel (Santa Cruz) and Flea Virostko (Santa Cruz) have signed on to battle WQS stand-outs like reigning event champion Roy Powers (Hawaii), Timmy Reyes (Huntington Beach), Brett Simpson (Huntington Beach), Dylan Slater (Ventura), Jesse Merle Jones (Hawaii) and Alek Parker (Florida). Florida’s Falina Spires, Jodie Nelson (Surfside) and red-hot Melanie Bartels (Hawaii) are among the top women competitors. The men are battling for $10,000 and one-star WQS points while the women are vying for $5,000 and one-star WQS points.
Held during late winter in prior years in grueling conditions ranging from driving rainstorms to the occasional show shower, the event has been shifted to capitalize on favorable weather patterns. Another benefit of the new time frame is the excellent “Indian Summer waves produced on California’s north coast.
According to Surfline’s Sean Collins, the O’Neill Cold Water Classic is positioned to potentially receive an “extra tropical storm. “These storms begin as a typhoon off the coast of Japan and mix with cold, low pressure systems off Siberia. When they merge, they explode into small, but intense storms leading to early season swells, said Collins. “The resulting waves are extremely clean and really good.