Day four of the O’Neill Cold Water Classic finally gave everyone some waves to work with only they were verybumpy and for the most part unfriendly. By unfriendly I mean not very clean, choppy, and just plain old crap. Theweather too seemed to be just a bit colder as everyone was pretending to be Eskimos and the clouds teased everyonewith sprinkles of rain all day.
[IMAGE 1] The Santa Cruz guys, as always, were using local knowledge to their advantage and even had Ken “Skindog”Collins throwing support from the cliff with a bullhorn. Barney Barron, a local and worldly favorite, decided to surfhis heat (that he lost) in his Hotline Aquaman suit-a wetsuit with fin-like appendages hanging off it.
Today was the rounds of 64 and 32 and despite being a non-QS qualifying event, there was a lot of top talentpresent. Some surfed and advanced while others like Ryan Simmons, Bryan Hewitson, Tim Reyes, and Ben Bourgeois(overcoming a sickness) took first heat losses.
The quarters are set with heat number one, Adam Replogle, Sean Moody, Roy Powers, and Chris Drummy, heatnumber two, Micah Byrne, Wiki Villa, Peter Mel, and Anthony Petruso, heat number three,Jeff Deffenbaugh, Keith Malloy,Ratboy, and Kieran Horn, and heat number four, Ross Williams, Shane Beschen, Chris Wardo, and Taylor Knox.
In case you didn’t know, Pat O’Connell requalified for the WCT last year despite a knee injury that put him injeopardy of falling out. Pat’s an incredibly nice person who wants to be the humble guy out of the water and a sharkin the water. For some reason or another Pat’s not getting the respect he deserves as one of America’s top surfers andhe still wants to change. Here’s a little interview with him. – AC
[IMAGE 2] TransWorld Yeah Guy Online: It was a close one, but you made it back on the tour last year. Pat O’Connell: It wasn’t even a close call.
Yeah it was close. The funny thing is, the events that I missed ended up being important at the end of theyear. Had I done those I don’t think there would have been any question. I think it was a funny hundred points, Imissed so many events. Anyways, whatever the case,I’m just stoked to be back on.
Are you ready to improve on last year and just start over?
Totally, I think it was really hard mentally more than physically. Physically it sucked obviously, butmentally it was really hard because I started off sixteenth in Australia. I left Australia rated sixteenth and threemonths later I came back after knee surgery and I was rated 40th. Mentally, it’s like anything, you want to feel likeyou’re shooting for something and all of a sudden when you’ve been put back so far, it killed my motivation. I feltlike I was kind of treading water, I was like, “What am I doing here, I should of taken the whole year off.” Becauseyou want to feel like you have a shot to be in the top ten. For me, that’s what I want to do and when I came back Ifelt like it was kind of pointless. So that’s kind of how it was and just started reevaluating, “Do I really want tobe here? Do I want to just go out, have fun, and do surf trips?” It was kind of like that all year last year. And Idon’t think I got any help from the judges as well
Do you think the whole acting thing took away some of your respect even though you’re on the CT?
I actually like it that way because to be honest with you, I like being the quiet achiever. I don’t thinkpeople ever realize that I’d do as well as I have. For me, that’s just motivation to do that. I tend to get along withpeople who are more like that as well. For me, I don’t like the pressure, if a sponsor were to tell me, “This is whatwe want you to do.” I can’t say I’m gonna do that, I can’t say I’m gonna do that, I go out there and try 110 percentall of the time. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. That’s just the way it is. To me, I think it’s easierbecause get along with people pretty good. People generally have a pretty open mind like, “Oh wow, that’s that guy,”and don’t think I’m threatening to a lot of people-I like that.
A normal guy, but a bunny rabbit with fangs?
Totally, nobody knows about me, I just kind of hide out. A lot of the other guys in my generation have gottena lot of press and how good they’re doing and everything like that. Sometimes I’m mentioned, sometimes I’m not.Sometimes I’d like to think I’d be remembered for being a better surfer and that I probably will. That’s okay I stillhave a long time to go.
So you’re focused and you’re ready. What have you done to physically and mentally prepare yourself?
What I’ve done sounds like the opposite to what most people would be doing in my case. Rather than surfing abunch, I haven’t been surfing that much at all. Last year I didn’t take any time, I got real sick in Hawaii and Iliterally went on trips from the first of January until I went to Australia-I was in Australia three weeks before thecontest started. So by the time the contest came around, the first response was to go home. So this year I’ve beendoing the opposite, I’ve been focusing on a lot of other projects at home and kinda cruising. Really just surfing onceor maybe twice a day, but making those surfs count and enjoying my time out there. Rather than really having nothingbetter to do than just paddling out and sitting there and going, “What am I doing out here?” Like when I was a kid, ifI had school in 45 minutes, I’d run out there for a half an hour to get a couple waves. I’d use that time soefficiently and I’ve lost that. You start to lose the love for surfing because you’re just treading water-because youhave to.
[IMAGE 3] If this is a non-qualifying event, why’d you come up here?
Santa Cruz is a really cool spot. We all like it. There’s a lot of tradition. I’ve been coming up here fortwelve years now. You never know,it could have be perfect. I know today isn’t the best day. What else would I bedoing? Sitting in SoCal doing nothing. So it’s a chance for me to get back in the competitive environment. It’s awakeup call too. You haven’t competed for awhile and all of a sudden it’s, “Oh yeah, it’s a heat.” So it’s put yourmind back, “Okay, I remember what I’ve got to be doing, this is what I’ve got to do.” And who knows, you win. Hey,it’s better than a kick in the nuts. It’s a few thousand bucks and it feels good.
Do you still get the nervous jitters before heats?
I do actually. I get them in a good way. I wake up in the morning and my system is full on and I get realancy. Snips (Mike Parsons) and I were talking about it the other day and laughing because I know someday I know Iwon’t have to do that anymore. I won’t be competing and all that and I’ll be bummed that I won’t have those anxiousmoments of competition that day. For me, surfing is funny because no matter how much money’s on the line it’s usuallynever about the competition and money, it’s about your peer group saying, “Yeah, that guy’s surfing good.” You kind ofgo out there to just surf good and want your friends to say, “Yeah, that guy’s surfing well right now.” Especially atthe beginning of the year like this, I think it sets you up for what’s gonna come in the next few months. You have agood showing here and people are like, “Wow, that guy really has a good board, he really looks like he’s on it.” Thatkind of stuff stays with you. You might be down and then someone might be, “Hey, you were surfing great at thiscontest,” and that picks you right up. Surfing’s hard, it’s not a team sport. There’s not a lot of people that haveyour back saying, “Yeah, right on, it’s okay, it’s one bad result. You’ll get em’ next time.” Because most of the timethe guys you’ll talk to are your fellow competitors. They certainly don’t want you to beat them next time, so they’renot gonna give you any pick me up. I found that a lot this year. Time after time after time you lose and you’refeeling so battered down. Like how you go to pet a dog and he’s been beat before and they shy away. That’s how I feltcompetition is, as soon as some guy would get a wave I’d felt I’d already lost. It was the opposite of going out in aheat and feeling even. I felt like I had lost, I had to prove something to win which is terrible-not the right way togo into it at all. This year gave me a little bit of perspective in that I’ve been doing the tour for eight years nowand I’ve never failed to qualify and so this year was kind of a wakeup call. Like,”Wow, here’s the other side of itand how bad do you want to be there?”e you lose and you’refeeling so battered down. Like how you go to pet a dog and he’s been beat before and they shy away. That’s how I feltcompetition is, as soon as some guy would get a wave I’d felt I’d already lost. It was the opposite of going out in aheat and feeling even. I felt like I had lost, I had to prove something to win which is terrible-not the right way togo into it at all. This year gave me a little bit of perspective in that I’ve been doing the tour for eight years nowand I’ve never failed to qualify and so this year was kind of a wakeup call. Like,”Wow, here’s the other side of itand how bad do you want to be there?”