The Coldwater Classic may be the world’s most elaborate job interview. The unconventional contest, with 16 surfers battling it out for a yearlong contract with O’Neill, brought out some great performances by a talented field at Steamer Lane. In the end, San Clemente’s Nate Yeomans took down the young local Shaun Burns in the Final, earning himself a spot on O’Neill’s roster. I sat down with Yeomans after his win to talk Steamer Lane, career renewal, and getting really barreled.
So you’ve had a lot of success at this wave in the past. What’s your relationship like with The Lane?
What’s funny is that the first five times I came up here I lost first round. Then I started to realize that I needed to be more patient and get the best waves in the heat. After that clicked, I remember making quarters one year and then winning the event another year. I’ve been able to get some consistent results here ever since, and I love surfing this wave. It’s a fun wave on your backside, especially when you get on the right ones with a proper wall. When you get one of those, you can just paint the canvas.
Since wave selection decided most the heats, were you concerned about surfing against a local in the Final?
Shaun’s been surfing amazing out there. He’s got a really solid air game, and his surfing is so refined that I actually thought he was a lot older. He’s only 21. But yeah, I knew he was going to be a tough draw. It was like comparing apples to oranges in the Final though, with him on his forehand and me on my backhand. But we both just did our thing and the judges gave me the nod.
What do you think about some of the other competitors in the event? There are a lot of really talented guys and it’s hard to believe they don’t have sponsors.
I think it’s a sign of the times. People are struggling, and it’s easy for surfers to get lost doing the competitive thing, which doesn’t necessarily create value for the brands. Plus there are so many great surfers out there, so it kind of takes a bit more to create that value. I think a lot of the guys in this event surf insane, and could probably make the Tour one day. It’s tough to do that without support though.
Were you feeling pretty confident that you could win this thing coming into the event?
You know, I’ve actually had kind of a shitty year contest-wise. I don’t think I’ve made more than a heat or two in any of the big events I competed in thus far. Overall, it might actually be my worst competitive year. But I feel really comfortable here, I had a good board under my feet, and I knew I could turn a corner.
So do you think this will be a shot in the arm for you competitively?
Honestly, I haven’t even really been able to take it all in yet. Before this, I was actually setting up some job interviews and thinking that I might surf my last events in Hawaii this winter. Obviously this event win means a pretty big change of plans for me, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s hard to walk away from your dreams, so I’m stoked to have an opportunity to continue being a professional surfer.
What’s on your agenda now that you’ve got a this sponsorship?
I haven’t had time to even think about it yet, but I’d love to just take off somewhere and score really good waves without having to worry about a contest. I haven’t been able to do that in a while, because I haven’t really had the financial support. Traveling for contests is always a lot easier to justify, because if you do well you make your money back directly from competing. So it would be great to just not even think about that and score great waves.
What trip would be at the top of your list?
Fiji or Tahiti. I’d really love to go looking for some big barrels. Hopefully this means I’ll be doing a bit more of that.