Stormy conditions couldn't stop Matt Wilkinson's flawless backhand assault at Steamer Lane on the final day of the O’Neill Cold Water Classic. Surfing against Tonino Benson in the Final, Wilkinson jumped out to an early lead posting a 7.00 on his first wave. However, Wilkinson's 7.00 left Benson out the back and he quickly answered back by scoring a 7.03. The inconsistent conditions played a major role in the Final result especially when Wilkinson found an inside runner and executed three vertical snaps in the pocket to earn a 6.67. The score was just enough to hold off Benson and earn Wilkinson his first major victory on U.S. shores.
"I had a really good time here in Santa Cruz," said Wilkinson, immediately following his Final against Benson. "It's a really beautiful town and now it's time to get mad."
Wilkinson's victory over Benson was at the cost of hometown hero Nat Young, as Wilko bested Young in semifinal Number 1 and put an end to Young's three consecutive Cold Water Classic Final appearances. Young will now head to the 6-Star Prime Islas Canarias Santa Pro in the Canary Islands with his second-best result of the year.
After an injury-plagued year, Tonino Benson remained very positive and optimistic about the remainder of the year. "I'm just happy to be here competing with all these great surfers, and I'm looking forward to getting some more results," said Benson, giving his runner-up acceptance speech.
Matt Wilkinson wasn't the only competitor popping bottles of champagne, Australia's Shaun Cansdell was crowned this year's O'Neill Cold Water Classic Series Champion and was awarded a $50K check after runner-up Dion Atkinson lost in the Round of 16. "Dion only needed to make three heats, so I wasn't real confident, but in the end I got the job done," said an emotional Cansdell.
The O'Neill Cold Water Classic California is the final of five stops that make up the Cold Water Classic series.