The O’Neill Cold Water Classic began on a rainy Tuesday morning at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. The west side boys kept dry in the comforts of their trucks, watching the waves from the local’s parking lot, while the visitors huddled under their hoodies, shivering along the railing.
Competitors came from all over the globe to surf in the four-star event with a purse of $75,000 for the men and $20,000 for the women. Organizers, judges, and surfers held their breath and crossed their fingers, hoping for the expected swell. And they waited. And waited. But it never came …
Wednesday and Thursday the contest ran in 3-5 foot surf under cold, partly cloudy skies. Local boys Tyler Smith, Josh Loya, Adam Replogle, and Noi Kaulukukui ripped up the mediocre surf while out-of-towners Geoff Moysa, Alek Parker, Dede Suryana, and up-and-coming grom Sterling Spencer gave them a run for their money.
The Crow’s Nest in the Santa Cruz harbor was the spot to be both nights, showcasing the talent of local band The Expendables on Wednesday and legend Tom Curren and his band on Thursday. Many drinks were consumed and a fun time was had by all, but it was early to bed and early to rise for Friday’s competitors.
And so began The Curse of the Cold Water Classic. The Lane had morphed itself overnight into Lake Santa Cruz and decisions were made to move the contest fourteen miles north to the shark-infested beachbreak of Waddell Creek. For the first time in history, the Cold Water Classic was made mobile due to a tremendous lack of surf. A few makeshift tents were erected and the competitors did their best to make the most of the blown-out surf.
Saturday morning the competitors gathered back at the Lane to get the word from announcer Mike Morgan on where (or if) the contest would be held for the day. And so the curse continued…The women’s heats would move back to Waddell Creek where they would run through Sunday, while the men’s portion of the contest was over at the round of 64. Contest organizer Darren Brillhart explained, “Since we finished the round of 96 yesterday, everybody who advanced to the round of 64 will get $600 and an equal amount of points (49th place). The decision to finish the women’s event was made because this was the last event of the season for the women’s tour, while the men still had two more events to go.
Saturday and Sunday saw the departure of lots of male competitors from Santa Cruz, frustrated and upset with the decision not to finish their event. The women surfed their finals at Waddell in 2-4 foot beachbreak with the Aussies dominating. Although local girls Anna Garaway, Siri Cota, Carlsbad’s Lauren Sweeney, and Florida’s Sarah Hoffert threw down some serious skills, it was Australia’s Samantha Cornish, Amee Donohoe, and Rebecca Woods, who took first, second, and third respectively, while Brazilian Silvana Lima came in fourth.
I left Santa Cruz on Sunday afternoon, driving home in dreary weather, and laughed when traffic came to a standstill in L.A. county because of an accident at Cold Water Drive. Go figure.