It started out on a remote corner at the edge of the world, where the Indian Ocean pounds the isolated Tasmanian shoreline. Then up to the northern town of Thurso, Scotland, renowned for its reef breaks. South Africa’s treacherous Cape Peninsula was the next stop, surfers attacking the powerful swells under the towering cliffs of the Table Mountain Range.
Fog, snow, freezing temperatures and ice-cold water are just a sample of what could await competitors during the fourth stop of the O’Neill Cold Water Classic, which gets under way today (Oct. 24) through next weekend in Tofino.
That’s right, Tofino. The 6 Star ASP World Qualifying Series event is the first pro surf contest to grace Canadian shores and is being dubbed the sport’s coldest by organizers. While that’s up for debate — to be honest, the waters of Scotland were colder — Vancouver Island’s rugged western coastline, idyllic beach breaks, cedar-lined shore and majestic snow-capped mountains make it one of the coolest surf contests on the planet.
“Maybe some people take it for granted due to a lack of understanding, but everyone here knows how big this is,” said Noah Cohen, an O’Neill-sponsored surfer who was born and raised in Tofino. “Not only is it a World Qualifying Series stop, but it’s a six star event — and there’s not many of them around the world. For surfers in the area it’s huge. Not just for the chance to compete, but to see a surf contest of this level with a world-class international field.”
The CWC is one of the few professional surf contests on the WQS to guarantee top surfers from the area an opportunity to compete for a spot in the main event, even if they lack the sufficient number of points normally required to gain entry.
“I know a couple of the guys that are involved and they’re really stoked,” said Cohen.
More than 120 of the world’s best surfers representing more than 10 countries will compete for $145,000 US in prize money. It’s one of the premier WQS events globally in terms of its purse.
With it will come some of the world’s surfing media, ensuring that pictures from the event will appear in magazines across the globe.
What’s not guaranteed are the conditions. In order to take advantage of the best waves each day, the event will take place anytime during the week at any of four local beaches: Cox Bay, North or South Chesterman, or MacKenzie.
Based on name alone, O’Neill’s Cold Water Classic Series was never going to be a conventional surf contest. And Tofino lives up to all that organizers had promised — a competition that breaks boundaries, ventures that little bit further into the wild and explores that extra level for the best waves on offer — when they expanded the series to Canada this year.
“It’s cold, it’s extreme … it’s all about finding more ways to spend time in the water and where else can we take pro surfing,” said Matt Wilson, CWC contest director.
Tofino seems the perfect choice.
The Association of Surfing
Professionals is the world’s top governing body for the sport. Its highest tier of competitive surfing is known as the World Tour, which sees the top 45 surfers square off during 10 events in Australia, the South Pacific, Europe and the United States. To make it into the top 45 and onto the World Tour, surfers must advance through the World Qualifying Series.
The Cold Water Classic is one of about 30 WQS surf contests held world wide.
Source: Vancouver Sun