Want to judge the O’Neill Coldwater Classic?

Dusty Payne. Photo: O'Neill

Dusty Payne. Photo courtesy of Miller/O’Neill

The O’Neill Coldwater Classic is one of surfing’s longest running events, having taken place in the chilly surf at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California, since 1987. Winners have included everyone from legends such as Tom Curren and Martin Potter to the stars of today such as Jordy Smith and Matt Wilkinson. The Coldwater Classic has been a World Championship Tour event, then a Qualifying event, then back to a World Championship Tour event last year. And now it’s something entirely new: an invitational with four of the entrants picked by the public via an online video contest that the public will be able to vote on through October 6 by clicking here.

The growing popularity of online video and polling led Hurley and Quiksilver to put on similar promotions this year for the Hurley Pro Trestles and Quiksilver King of the Groms. The wrinkle for the Coldwater is what’s at stake for the winner: a year-long sponsorship from O’Neill with $50,000 dollars and a personal videographer thrown in.

In these difficult economic times with many talented pros finding themselves without sponsorship, that’s a prize that’s certain to raise interest and eyebrows. The question of who gets and who does not get sponsored has always been subject to the whims of companies. They traditionally sponsor athletes who they consider “marketable,” so it will be interesting to see who wins this event and what O’Neill does with him.

“O’Neill is extremely excited to be supporting athletes who may be considered underdogs. Helping surfers who’ve paid their dues chase the dream of qualifying is good for our sport,” said O’Neill Wetsuits director of marketing Brian Kilpatrick.

The 2013 O’Neill Coldwater classic runs from November 6 to November 10. The online voting will take place from September 30 to October 6.