Thurso, Scotland – The Northern Hemisphere’s winter might officially be over, but as the O’Neill Cold Water Classic Series travels to the most northerly town on the British mainland, for the 144 surfers getting into the water, it will feel like anything but.
Following one of the coldest European winters on record, and with recent blizzards and snowfall up in the northeast of Scotland, this is going to be one grueling O’Neill Cold Water Classic Scotland event when it gets in the water from April 13th.
“It’s been pretty cold,” said local legend and event ambassador Andy Bain. “The river has been freezing up,” he said. “There were a couple days you couldn’t even surf Thurso East because of the chunks of ice coming down the river.”
The 6-Star ASP event in Thurso follows an epic start to the Cold Water Classic Series in March in the wilds of Tasmania, Australia where Stuart Kennedy took victory in perfect 2-meter conditions.
Now as the Series moves to the other side of the world for the northernmost event in professional surfing, it will discover powerful world-class waves to rival Hawaii’s North Shore on their day – in some of the most challenging conditions a surfer could face. With both the air and water temperatures hovering uncomfortably low, coupled with the persistent rain and hail - this is the ultimate Cold Water Classic experience. And yet the surfers flood back year after year to brave the conditions.
Among them is the competition’s 2007 runner-up, Jarrad Howse. “There's something about the history and heritage of Thurso that takes my breath away every year,” he says. “From the drive up there through the snowy highlands to the amazing slate bottom hollow waves, Scotland's northerly coast is my favorite stop on tour and I am not alone.”
With a mobile format, the competition is free to make the most of the quality on offer on this coastline - from the steep fast and shallow wave of Brims Ness to the perfection of Thurso East.
“Thurso can see some pretty challenging conditions,” said Jarrad. “But in epic 6 to 8 foot Thurso East, no one is complaining. Everyone is after that Highland Sword trophy.”
As is tradition with this event, the historic sword is presented to the winner in a reef-side ceremony presided over by Andy Bain.
It is not just the sword the surfers are competing for – but also the opportunity to win the O’Neill Cold Water Classic Series title – and the $50,000 prize money.
After his win in Tasmania, Stuart Kennedy is currently leading the assault on the $50,000, however, with the likes of Cory Lopez, Dayyan Neve, Tim Boal, Shaun Cansdell and Timmy Reyes making the trip up to Scotland’s north coast, maintaining this lead will be no easy feat.
Following Scotland the Cold Water Classic Series will move on to the wildest event in professional surfing in Cape Town, South Africa, before professional surfing’s coldest event in Tofino, Canada, and it’s most classic in Santa Cruz California – the birthplace of O’Neill.
THE O’NEILL CWC SCOTLAND WILL BE SHOWN LIVE AT www.oneill.com/live or www.oneill.com/cwc