Dawn. Tofino, Canada. In forty-odd minutes, the sun will pull itself over the Pacific horizon, illuminating a view that will cause more than a few at the O'Neill Cold Water Classic Canada to utter a sigh of relief. The bitter winds that have been eviscerating the lineups for the past few days have died as quickly as they arrived. In their wake lay an armada of succulent morning glass peaks--a view that any surfer worth his salt knows all too well.
Over the course of the past few days, the cold souls surfing in the event had proven that they could hack their way through tear-jerking duck-dives in frosty lineups. They've bitten their dried and purple lips time and again when the wind whipped daggers into their eardrums. And they've done it all without complaining...well, mostly. They've had enough of the cold. They were ready for the classic. And the view out front this morning--oh, what a view--left everyone wide-eyed and grinning. Suddenly, the prospect of donning a still-moist 5/4, booties, and gloves didn't seem all that terrifying after all.
"Have you seen that one, bru! Look at that bowl, bru. Look at that one!" exclaimed the effervescent band of South Africans standing within earshot as they checked the lineup at Cox Bay.
"F–k, looks pretty f–king good out there, eh boys?" countered an Aussie with slightly less tact than his Zaffa counterparts.
In lockstep with the conditions, 9s were dropping with reckless abandon. In heat 21, Santa Cruz's Nat Young opened up with a smoker of a 9.7. Things looked good for Nat. At least until Dion Atkins answered with his own 9. So did Kevin Sullivan. Suddenly for Nat, a past Cold Water Classic champ, things looked dicey. Needing a five to make it through the heat, the lineup went cold.
Five minutes left. Nothing. Three minutes left. Still flat. One minute left. A small bump on the inside. Nat sprint-paddles away from the crowd, his arms cutting through the water like a thousand oars, and catches the wave just as the horn sounds. He only needs a five, but surfs the open left-hander like he's comboed, linking perfect cutties all the way to the inside. Five of them. One for each point he needs. Nat gets the score and advances.
"When I heard that I got a 9 in the beginning of the heat, I felt pretty good. Like I had it secured. I hadn't had a good result in a while so I was feeling pretty stoked. And then I heard the judges announce that Dion [Atkinson] got a 9. And then Kevin Sullivan got a 9, too. I was kind of like, 'Okay, now what,'" said Nat. "After that, I knew I only needed a five and then I got that one on the end and just milked it; I tried to play it smart and get the score."
The day continued along the same route with surfers in the following heats upping the ante. Of those that stood out, Huntington's Brett Simpson appeared in fine form and, as was protocol today, would throw down a 9-pointer.
Simpson is currently looking strong to qualify for the World Tour next year; it's something that he attributes to staying relaxed and doing well in his heat.
"I don't want to say that I've qualified just yet...I don't want to jinx myself, ya know? But having a good standing right now definitely makes it easier to surf a heat. I think today was probably the best surf that the series has seen yet. That makes it easy too."
Tomorrow's forecast is calling for a drop in swell and...you guessed it...cold weather and rain. Stay up to speed on all the drama in Canada at Surfermag.com.