Jordy Smith Wins the O’Neill Cold Water Classic Presented by Jeep

At this year's Cold Water Classic in Santa Cruz, competitors autographed {{{Excel}}} spreadsheets instead of posters. World Qualifying Series, North American Qualifying Series, Macy's California Trifecta Surf Series, ASP World Pro Junior Qualifiers, Junior Seal Wrangling Series…the overlap of ratings races at this annual Norcal pro-down was eye-crossing. Add to that the bonus cash prize disbursements across multiple divisions and you had to be a mathlete to figure out what the winners were actually winning.

But there was no slide rule needed for Jordy Smith, who went to Santa Cruz with only one prize in mind. "I saw there was a swell coming and I wanted to get some waves," he said before his first heat in the Round of 64. Though still stickerless and complaining of numb feet, the current WQS ratings leader got good enough waves all week to get past the usual frothing phalanx of Steamer Lane locals (including 2006 finalist Josh Loya and past champ Kieran Horn in the finals) and clinch the 2007 Cold Water title. How to describe the level of Smith's surfing in each heat along that path to victory? Remember in the movie "This is Spinal Tap" when the Loudest Band in the World is describing the volume dial on their amps? Well, "This one goes to 11."

Smith rarely finished a wave without at least one reverse 360 or other progressive move, showing why he is considered the spear tip of a potentially guard-changing attack on the WCT in 2008. "Jordy is a Curren or a Slater," said Peter Townend after Smith's Round of 32 heat, the only one in which he took second (to local Jason "Ratboy" Collins). "Nobody has put together a win record like he has since those guys; national amateur title, world pro juniors, on track to win the 'QS."

The plethora of new pro surf series is part of a conscious effort to place North American 'QS talent in the same competitive forge that cooks up prodigies like Smith. Though sometimes it can be hard to know where you stand until you're standing on the podium. "I have no idea what my ranking is," said Ventura pro Adam Virs prior to making the semis at Steamer Lane and winning the 2007 Macy's Trifecta Surf Series Championship and bonus prizes, including $10,000 and a new {{{Jeep Patriot}}}. Virs, who is expecting his first child in February, was emotional talking about the win. "I made a promise to myself I would take care of my family and this is just so awesome for me. I've been waiting so long for this."

If the WQS and Pro Junior Series sometimes seem like a frantic Salmon spawn, the 2007 Cold Water Classic saw the leaping into view of one particularly inspiring little Nemo in the form of sixteen-year-old Nat Young from Santa Cruz. Young won not only the Oakley Pro Junior division (20-and-under), beating Macy's Trifecta Series Pro Junior winner Nick Rozsa, World Pro Junior-qualified Adam Wickwire and Travis Beckmann in the finals, he also finished an amazing run at the Men's 'QS title in the quarter-finals, finally losing to Jordy Smith and Josh Loya. The teenage Young, whose 'QS experience to date included only a couple of 2-stars, employed a strikingly simple formula for success at such a complex event.

"This year I caught a couple of waves," he said. "Last year I didn't stand up. That was the difference."

The Cold Water Classic carried on its long tradition as a launching pad (think Curren from trials to title in 1990 and Pottz in '89) in 2007. Jordy Smith will jump to the WCT next year. The five men's competitors who will represent North America at the Billabong Pro Junior World Championships in 2008 were decided (Gadauskas, Wickwire, Rozsa, Arrambide and Waring). And if Nat Young proves he is able to win at away games the way he wins at home, this week may have offered a glimpse of pro surfing's future five years afield. What more can anyone interested in propelling North American pro surfing forward hope for?

O'Neill Cold Water Classic pres. by {{{Jeep}}} – ASP WQS 4-Star
Semifinals: 16 surfers remaining (1st and 2nd advance)
SF 1: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.33, Kieran Horn (USA) 11.64, Jesse Merle-Jones (HAW) 10.83, Adam Virs (USA) 10.13
SF 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.60, Josh Loya (USA) 13.97, Jason Collins (USA) 12.47, Dusty Payne (HAW) 7.74

1 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.43
2 – Kieran Horn (USA) 14.{{{90}}}
3 – Brett Simpson (USA) 9.90
4 – Josh Loya (USA) 6.90

Macy's California Trifecta Surf Series presented by Jeep – ASP North America Specialty SeriesFinal Standings

1 – Adam Virs (Ventura, CA) $10,000 plus All-New Jeep {{{Patriot}}}
2 – Nathan Yeomans (San Clemente, CA) $3,500
3 – Austin Ware (Solana Beach, CA) $1,500