In November, pro surfer Torrey Meister, who is from the Big Island of Hawaii, won the O'Neill Coldwater Classic Invitational at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California, and took home the grand prize—a sponsorship from O'Neill consisting of $50,000 to travel the world and compete in the World Qualifying Series in pursuit of making the elite World Championship Tour. The Coldwater Classic surf competition was only open to 16 surfers without major sponsors, and the public voted those surfers into the event.
Early in his career, Torrey was labeled as "the next big thing," but injuries and budget cuts caused him to lose steam. But now that he's got a whopping $50,000 to pay for travel to events, he's got a legitimate shot at the big leagues. Here are his thoughts on the opportunity of a lifetime.
Just how far can $50,000 go on the World Qualifying Series (WQS)? Can you enter and travel to every major event?
$50,000 goes along way on the WQS, especially now because there are only eight six-star prime events and four six-star events. Those are the most important contests because they give you the most points. When I started doing the WQS there would be about 15 six-star events scattered around the world and a bunch of five- and four-star events as well. During that time you would be trying to do as many events as possible so it would get pretty expensive. But now the ASP has condensed the points into several events rather than like 20 events, so that makes it easier on your wallet because you are traveling to fewer places. I think the WQS schedule is a lot better now than it was back then.
What stops are you focusing on and why?
I'm focusing on all the six-star primes. All the events on that schedule I really enjoy surfing and competing at. I can't wait for the Lowers event [in San Onofre, California]—I haven’t put a jersey on and surfed Lowers in a long time. It’s one of my favorite waves in the world, so I can’t wait for that one. Saquarema, Brazil, is also a special place. I love South Africa, too—it's one of my favorite places in the world. I have a lot of good friends there, it's cheap, and the waves are insane! I can't think of anything better than finishing off in Hawaii—the Triple Crown is my favorite time of year and I love surfing events at home.
My main focus this year is to do my best in every event I surf in, but more important, enjoy every second of it. The opportunity I have is amazing; I just want take it all in and the results will come.
What’s the best you’ve done in a big WQS event? Where was it?
The best I've done in a major WQS event was a semifinal at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu back in 2009. I'm due for another good result!
What would it mean to you to make the World Championship Tour?
Making the World Championship Tour (WCT) would be a dream come true! I’ve been dwelling on it and putting all my time toward making it to the top since I was a little kid. I remember telling my dad when I was 5 years old that I wanted to be a pro surfer and compete with the very best surfers in the world someday. So to make the World Championship Tour and accomplish that goal would mean the world to me. Just the thought of it makes chills roll up and down my spine. I want it bad!
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