Don't be surprised if former Cold Water Classic champion Nat Young upsets a frontrunner in this year's title race . Photo: Miller/O'Neill

In 2008, with a local crowd cheering his every move, a 17-year-old Nat Young won the Coldwater Classic in Santa Cruz. Today, at 21 and with the contest now a World Tour event, Nat Young won the local Trials and will meet Kelly Slater and Kolohe Andino in Round 1. On the eve of competition, we spoke with Nat about his Trials win and competing in his first World Tour event.

With only the winner of Trials earning a seed into the event, describe what it was like out there competing against the best local surfers.

It was just like any other local contest I do at home. Except today there were man-on-man heats and live scoring, so that was a little different. But I've been doing local contests with these guys since I was twelve years old.

Do you think it's harder competing against locals or guys on the One World Ranking?

There are definitely guys from here that would be harder to face than guys on the ‘QS. This is a hard wave to surf and the locals know how to surf it. I mean today was tough. But I stuck to my game plan, which was to get a couple of good scores in the beginning of each heat. Fortunately, it worked out as I planned and right away I got a couple of 8s.

The contest is likely to run tomorrow. As someone whose dream has always been to compete in a World Tour event here, how do you feel heading into tomorrow's competition?

I'm super excited, but I also really want to do well. Winning the Trials is just one step, and like I said I'm really excited to be in the contest, but doing well in the contest is more important. I'm looking forward to surfing against Kelly Slater and Kolohe Andino tomorrow.

With your experience at The Lane and Slater's lack thereof, how do you think you'll match up against him?

[Laughs] I have no idea. He surfed out there this afternoon, and it would've been interesting to watch him, but either way he's going to rip out there. I'm obviously not going to do anything different. I'm going to just keep surfing like I normally do out there.

Right now you're twentieth on the One World Ranking. Does today's win boost your confidence in finishing the year strong?

Yeah, it's definitely a taste of what could happen if I keep doing well. It's nice to have the opportunity to surf against these guys, and also to be able to surf against them at my home spot. So yeah, it's a confidence boost. The better I do out here the more confidence I can get.