Nat Young Wins The 2008 O’Neill Cold Water Classic

I couldn't make this up if I wanted to. It's a storybook ending, with local boy Nat Young bringing home the Coldwater Classic title back to Santa Cruz after a five-year hiatus amidst a sea of bright orange "GO NAT" signs lining the cliff at Steamer Lane.

After a week of the most consistent surf the Coldwater has ever seen, Saturday was a day that saw many winners. Mason Ho won the Oakley Pro Junior, posting the competitions highest heat total of 19.10 by laying down some powerful rail work and popping a couple of huge air reverses. Micah Byrne won the overall Macy's California Trifecta Surf Series and Sebastian "Seabass" Zietz won the Oakley Pro Junior Trifecta series. But in the end the winner of winners was Nat Young.

Once Flea nicknamed Nat "The Cobra" from the announcing booth at the end of the Semis and the chants of "Westside" started echoing through the cliffs, it was impossible not to root for him.

"I wasn't too nervous," said Young, "just stoked to make it to the final. Obviously I wanted to win, but I was super tired cause I surfed three heats already."

The Final was close, with all four competitors separated by less than two points in the end. Nat's local knowledge and beyond vertical backhand surfing put him in first place with two minutes to go, but with every competitor in striking distance and sets stacking on the horizon, hearts were pounding and fingernails were being chewed to pieces.

Fellow finalist Granger Larsen caught a wave at the buzzer with an opportunity to take the lead, needing a 6.7 for the win, as locals muttered "fall, fall" under their breaths, willing the victory to Nat, and standing on their toes to see as Larsen's wave went through the Indicator section and out of view.

Larsen didn't fall, but his wave fattened up through the inside and didn't provide the canvas that's needed to paint a winning score. Although the waves had been firing throughout the heat, it was as if the Lane didn't want any other winner but Nat. And it was a good thing too, because I don't know if Larsen, Sean Moody, or Chris Waring would have wanted to be the one to ruin this story.

The cliff exploded, Santa Cruz's new favorite son had done it, tearing through heat after heat against the likes of Cory Lopez, Shaun Ward, and the rest of the local Santa Cruz contingent. At 17 years old, it was Nat's first WQS victory, though it certainly won't be his last.

Back at home after rinsing off from his proper Red Bull shower, Nat was immediately relaxing with friends, waiting for Nike to throw him a blow out. He said that he didn't even think he had a chance at the Final let alone taking home the spoils. But now that big-wave charger Peter Mel, a former Coldwater winner himself, swiped Nat's yellow singlet and made him sign it for posterity, I'm sure he's thinking a little bit differently. Word to the wise Pete, you'd better hang on to that jersey — this kid is going places.

So what goes through your head when you've been in your wetsuit since 7 a.m., just surfed the contest of your dreams in front of your home crowd, and picked up a hefty $10,000 paycheck for a 17-year-old?

"Nothing," Young said, "I'm just really tired."

Fair enough, but get used to it.

Micah Byrne

Complete results, images and video highlights available at

O'Neill Cold Water Classic Results:
1 – Nat Young (USA) 13.87
2 – Chris Waring (USA) 13.84
3 – Granger Larsen (HAW) 12.93
4 – Sean Moody (HAW) 11.94

Semifinals: (1st and 2nd advance)
Heat 1: Granger Larsen (HAW) 13.87, Chris Waring (USA) 13.84, Micah Byrne (USA) 13.36, Bud Freitas (USA) 6.{{{80}}}
Heat 2: Nat Young (USA) 12.67, Sean Moody (USA) 12.43, Randy Bonds (USA) 11.00, Jason Collins (USA) 7.60

Quarterfinals: (1st and 2nd advance)
Heat 1: Micah Byrne (USA) 10.77, Granger Larsen (HAW) 9.37, David Gonsalves (HAW) 7.50, Mason Ho (HAW) 7.34
Heat 2: Bud Freitas (USA) 13.50, Chris Waring (USA) 11.50, Chad Compton (USA) 10.40, Blake Howard (USA) 7.24
Heat 3: Jason Collins (USA) 14.66, Randy Bonds (USA) 11.16, Matt King (USA) 8.10, Kyle Garson (USA) 7.34
Heat 4: Nat Young (USA) 14.67, Sean Moody (HAW) 10.80, Shaun Ward (USA) 10.34, Cory Lopez (USA) 7.70

Macy's CA Trifecta WQS Results:
1 – Micah Byrne (Huntington Beach, CA) $10,000
2 – Asher Nolan (Jacksonville, FL) $3,500
3 – Nate Yeomans (San Clemente, CA) $1,500