The World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series' (QS) return to Steamer Lane is set for opening day of the O'Neill Cold Water Classic QS 1000. A plethora of the region's premier men's and women's talents are in attendance looking to add their name to the surf-rich history of Santa Cruz, California. A live webcast will bring all the action LIVE starting from the opening heat until respective victors are determined.
Nearly ten years ago, this event changed the course of Torrey Meister professional surfing career. The Big Island, Hawaii, competitor entered the 2013 O'Neill Cold Water Classic, winner take all specialty event, with a prize of $50,000 worth of sponsorship for a year featuring 16 unsponsored surfers. With the win, Meister got back on track and delivered some special moments in competitive history - including a third-place finish in the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach. (Full interview in video above)
"Santa Cruz is a very special place for me and when I won that event in 2013, it pretty much gave me back pro surfing," said Meister. "I don't know if I would be here today if it wasn't for that. It was one of those day's where everything goes your way and it felt like some kind of divine appointment of winning that thing."
Joining Meister on the list of heavy-hitting competitors, Championship Tour (CT) competitors Kolohe Andino, Griffin Colapinto, and Santa Cruz's own Nat Youngwill be alongside the likes of Ian Crane (USA), and more looking to shakeup the North America's Challenger Series hopefuls.
Emerging talent Zoe Chait just started doing her first QS events this season and has already left an impression with solid performances. The 16-year-old hails from Half Moon Bay, California, and has the opportunity to compete in her comfort zone of Steamer Lane for the first time donning the QS jersey. (Full interview in video above)
"For O'Neill to do this event, and being my main sponsor, that's just amazing and I'm so excited," said Chait. "It's super cool (that it's at Steamer Lane). I surf there almost every day and I've gotten really good with all the tricks of it like the big rock in the middle, and all the crazy stuff."
Santa Cruz's Own Ready to Represent For Their Community
Also on the women's side, Autumn Hays, Esme Brigham, and Keanna Miller look to capitalize at home in the women's event alongside Chait as they will contest for valuable points toward the Challenger Series in their backyard.
"I'm so excited it's back and the women's event is on," said Miller. "My mom competed in this event back in the day so I'm really excited to try and follow in her footsteps and make a Final. Our community here in Santa Cruz is awesome and I have a picture of me at one of the Cold Water events when I was really young so I cant wait to finally get to surf in it."
But, they will have to take on some of the region's best including recently confirmed 2023 CT surfer Caitlin Simmers, Challenger Series threats Kirra Pinkerton and Zoe Benedetto, recent U.S. Air Force Super Girl Surf Pro runner-up Bella Kenworthy, and more.
One of the QS's emerging threats, John Mel and Sam Coffey, lead the charge at their home break of Steamer Lane. For Mel, qualifying for the 2022 Challenger Series has taught the 23-year-old what it takes to make his dream of getting to the CT and continues to push his surfing. Now, a special opportunity awaits as he and Coffey look for a big result to give their community a local hero atop the podium.
"I'm so stoked the Cold Water is back in town, it's a contest I've always dreamed about competing in," said Mel. "I watched it growing up, and since I've been taking this (QS) tour seriously it's the first time the contest is back and I'm able to surf in it, so I'm really excited."
But, a hungry field of competitors including current North America No. 1 Jett Schilling, reigning Regional Champion Michael Dunphy, and Challenger Series threats Eithan Osborne and Nolan Rapoza, alongside many more rising talents are ready to make their mark in Santa Cruz history.
Event organizers will convene for a 7:00 a.m. PDT call for a possible 7:00 a.m. PDT start to competition. Tune in LIVE when competition is called on at www.WorldSurfLeague.com.
The O'Neill Cold Water Classic QS 1,000 will run November 15 - 19 at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, Calif.
For more information, please visit www.WorldSurfLeague.com.