The 2015 O'Neill Coldwater Classic, stop #30 on the World Surf League (WSL) Men's Qualification Series (QS), belongs to the event's lone Brazilian competitor Rafael Teixeira (BRA). His first time at Steamer Lane is one he will never forget, earning his inaugural QS win over a stacked field of international competitors, taking home $8,000USD and 1,500 rankings points.
Leaving nothing in the tank, Teixeira cracked a 9.00 on his opening ride but struggled to back it up until finally acquiring a 7.10 to seal the win in a huge way - comboing third and fourth place.
"I'm really, really stoked - this is the best day of my life," Teixeira said. "This is my first QS win and I just thank God, my family and friends, and just everyone who supported me both here and at home. I've loved my first time here and to win, I just don't know the words for this moment. It was great dropping those two good waves and I just wanted to try my best in the final so this is incredible."
The 22-year-old has no major sponsor, a reason that this contest is such an important event for surfers like Teixeira who are looking for support. Heading back to his home country tonight for the upcoming QS6000 in Florianopolis, the Brazilian kept advancing through each round, winning his Semifinal over Derek Peters (USA) and besting the Californian once more in the Final.
"I don't even know what was going on, I was just feeling really good this whole event," Teixeira said. "I love my backhand surfing and this right has been so fun. When waves came I wanted to give it my all and earn some good scores off my turns. I'm excited to return home but to win here has been amazing after training so hard for this contest. My mom and grandma support me a lot and with that support I can travel and now just want to do well for my family going forward."
Earning runner-up after an incredible campaign at Steamer Lane, including the highest heat total of the event with a 16.67 during Round 3 earlier this morning, Derek Peters (USA) went toe-to-toe with Teixeira in three different heats. Despite not getting the best of the Brazilian when it mattered most, the Huntington Beach local was all smiles after his best efforts to track down first place.
"It was a really fun event and I'm definitely feeling good," Peters said. "I didn't want to go to Brazil early and miss this event. I've always watched as kid, grew up competing here, and just love this place - thrilled to have come up and made second. I knew he had the 9.00 ride but there's been countless times when guys get big scores and don't back them up, so I knew there was still a chance. I got that 7.00 under priority but then he used his priority wisely for his back-up score, I didn't get another chance after that."
Like Teixeira and a number of fellow competitors still on site at Santa Cruz, Peters will be heading to Florianopolis for the next stop on the QS in hopes of breaking into the Top 100 - now with plenty of momentum to do so.
"The waves here were really fun," Peters said. "I was up here all week getting prepared. There were some good size waves before the contest window, early in the week, so I knew the board I wanted to ride and I was ready. It's a bit of a pinch for time but hopefully I can make it down to Brazil for my heat Tuesday."
Peters currently sits at No. 122 with a runner-up finish here and will need to continue his incredible form into Brazil in order to clinch a full time position in next year's crucial QS10000 events.
Representing Santa Cruz in phenomenal fashion all the way into the Final, Randy "The Kid" Bonds put up a fight in each heat starting with Round 1. Posting a massive 15.93 in the Quarterfinals and advancing behind Chris Waring (USA) in the Semifinals, Bonds looked ready to take this event by storm with a lot of noise behind him, competing as the event wildcard.
"The Quarters definitely felt better than the heat before, since it was such a nail biter, so it felt good to get a couple waves," Bonds said. "My body felt better and didn't have too many jitters - the waves just kept coming to me so that really helped as well."
Bonds had the full backing of his community on the cliffs of Steamer Lane and couldn't be more thankful for them. Though his drive overtakes other senses, "The Kid" knew they were there.
"I kind of get tunnel vision out there and don't really hear anything, it's pretty weird," Bonds said. "I barely here the scores and time, but to get all the support I did was amazing. I owe everything to my friends and family that came out every day - it's a little bit of pressure but it's worth it when you do well."
Wrapping up his stellar campaign with a respectable fourth place finish was former runner-up Chris Waring (USA). The 28-year-old looked in fine form throughout, as he charged his way from Round 1 all the way to the Final - including a buzzer beater heat win in the Semifinals to clinch a spot in the Final.
"I was already preparing myself for the Semifinal loss knowing I needed a small score and the ocean just went completely flat," Waring said. "I was so nervous on that wave needing a tiny score and just tried to stay over my board - the wave ended up being pretty good so it was hard to not really try and surf it. I lucked out so hard, I was totally shocked to advance into the Final."
"I just wanted to figure it out when I got in the water for the Final," Waring added about his last heat. "The waves were pretty tricky so it was really just a lot of adjusting and a little bit of luck. I would've liked to get a good rhythm going with a great Final on hand, but they're all so talented and I couldn't get things moving in that heat."