Tom Whitaker. Photo: Courtesy of ASP

Gisborne, New Zealand, March 25, 2011 – The O'Neill Cold Water Classic Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) 6-star made a change in venue halfway through the day today.

A move from the primary venue of Pines at Wainui Beach to Pipe at Midway Beach in the township of Gisborne saw extremely improved conditions that had the international contingent of surfers foaming at the mouth to hit the water for their heats.

After two and half days of strong onshore winds, Pipe offered up solid 1.5m plus waves and little-to-no wind with cranking left and right-handers running up and down the beach.

Earlier in the day seven heats were contested at Pines which started out clean with offshore winds that quickly swung onshore turning the ocean into a washing machine.

Australian Tom Whitaker contested one of the last heats of the round that was hampered by the strong onshore winds. Despite that, he posted an 11.5 0 point heat total to move through to the round of 48 with some powerful surfing.

"The conditions weren't the best out there, pretty challenging really, but I got a couple of good ones and I am through to tomorrow's action, I just hope it cleans up a bit" said Whitaker post heat.

Whitaker led a number of Australian surfers through to the round of 48 that included an in form Heath Joske who won his heat as well as Brent Dorrington and Parish Byrne.

The day was not without its upsets however with 2010 O'Neill Cold Water Classic Series winner Shaun Cansdell (AUS) being eliminated along with Gabriel Medina (BRA) Cory Lopez (USA) and Nathaniel Curran (USA).

French surfers Marc Lacomare and Joan Duru completed a one-two for their country today placing first and second in their heat respectively. Lacomare took the win over his countryman scoring 11.87 points in his heat.

Duru on the other hand had to battle away after finding himself in fourth place late in the heat.

"Yeah it was very good I was with the pack and I was fourth so I took off away from them down to the left and got two waves at the end" said Duru of how the heat unfolded.

Like most surfers he was also willing the wind to die down and the waves to clean up despite not having seen a weather forecast for the past few days. "Today is better than yesterday and the day before so yeah, I hope it is better again tomorrow."

Matt Hewitt (Mount Maunganui, New Zealand) won his heat today causing an upset of sorts to move through to the Round of 48 surfers. The 19-year-old recently won an ASP Australasia Pro Junior event in Australia and has been focused on the Pro Junior Series despite competing in several local ASP Star Series events in the Australasian Region.

Today Hewitt posted a low 9.20 point heat total wh ich was enough for a win in the last heat before the event was put on hold and subsequently moved.

"It was good this morning, nice and clean conditions. But then you could see this wind line coming in. Half a heat before mine it hit the comp area and turned choppy but there were some good ones out there still, you just had to find them" said Hewitt who is one of five Kiwi's remaining in the event and enjoying the home town support.

"It is huge for me to get through, keeps the Kiwis in the draw and with everyone here they all say good luck and it amps you up, everyone wishing you well before your heat, it pumps you up, it is pretty cool."

Late in the day New Zealand's top ranked surfer Richard Christie suffered a shock elimination placing third in his heat. Going for broke with several big aerial maneuvers did not pay off with Christie falling several times in front of a big home crow d that lined the beach as he was unable to find a 5.35 point wave for progression.

Following the launch in New Zealand, the O'Neill Cold Water Classic Series will travel to its northernmost destination – Thurso, Scotland, for the 6 Star ASP World Tour event from April 13 until April 19, before culminating once again at the 6 Star Prime ASP World Tour event, the O'Neill Cold Water Classic Series, California, in Santa Cruz, October 24-30, 2011.