The 2013 O'Neill Coldwater Classic ran today with a new, unconventional format in pumping conditions at Steamer Lane. After fighting a rising tide at the notoriously fickle wave during Round One, the quarterfinalists were determined, setting the event up for a dramatic finish as the final eight battled it out in prime, dropping tide conditions. With all sixteen of the competitors lacking sufficient sponsorship to chase their pro surfing dreams, hopes were running high. That, coupled with the two Santa Cruz locals in the heat draw, had the crowd on the edge of the cliff throughout the day.
Round One's draw set the event up for local triumphs, upsets, and legitimate opportunities for each competitor to prove they could compete on the elite level. The biggest upset came at the hands of Huntington Beach's Billy Hopkins when he eliminated Granger Larson, who is currently one position away from qualifying for the 2014 World Tour. Santa Cruz’s Shaun Burns and Noi Kaulukukui used their local wave knowledge to defeat Cory Arrambide, a successful amateur competitor from California, and surfer Dion Atkinson, No. 35 on the One World Rankings, respectively.
When the tide began to drop, the swell filled in perfectly against "The Slot," a narrow take-off spot next to the bluff, allowing the iconic wave to demonstrate why it has such a strong history and reputation. Ideal conditions held up throughout the remainder of the event with steep walls running from "The Slot" all the way through to the inside section.
The Quarters kicked off with an all-Hawaiian heat between Hank Gaskell and Torrey Meister. Meister started off quick with a nine-point wave (the highest of the event up to that point) that he punted a massive air on the inside section on. Gaskell was unable to come back and ultimately Meister found himself in the Final after defeating Ricardo Christie in the Semis. Noi Kaulukukui upset Chris Waring, a runner-up in the 2008 O'Neill Coldwater Classic, in a tight heat, but lost to Australian Wade Carmichael in the Semis.
Prior to the Final, Cory Lopez, Jason "Ratboy" Collins, and 2013 ASP World Tour Rookie of the Year Nat Young paddled out for an expression session. But finalists Torrey Meister and Wade Carmichael were pumped to get back out in the water, so the expression session was cut short.
The Final was characterized by multiple lead changes, as Meister and Carmichael went wave for wave in a seesaw battle. Late in the heat, Meister led with twin 6.67s, leaving Carmichael searching for a 6.54. However the ocean did not cooperate, and Meister took the win. Along with the trophy, Meister pocketed $50,000 to pursue his elite pro surfing aspirations.