SANTA CRUZ, California - The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) PRIME O’Neill Cold Water Classic kicked off the opening day of competition by wrapping up the local trials and completing the first 12 heats of the round of 128 at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California in clean two-to-three foot (.5 metre) surf.
Surfers competing in the ASP PRIME event are out to capitalize on the crucial ratings points on offer to either solidify their position on, or qualify for the prestigious ASP World Tour.
Tonino Benson (Kailua, HI), 20, unleashed several backhand blasts to open his O’Neill Cold Water Classic campaign in top form to earn the day’s highest single-wave score, 8.40 out of 10, to take out his Round 1 heat victory.
“That wave was just typical Steamers,” Benson said. “It was just so fun and rippable. When I saw it I didn’t know if it was going to be too walled, but it was just perfect all the way. I’m lucky that I got that second score right at the end.”
Jason Colllins (Santa Cruz, CA), 36, put his years of experience at the pristine pointbreak of Steamer Lane to good use today while amassing the day’s highest heat total of 14.33 out of 20 to win his Round 1 heat with a variety of powerful turns and airs.
“It was a tough heat,” Collins said. “Straight away there were people paddle battling and Dylan (Graves) caught the good set. There were only four or five set waves in that heat and luckily I got two of them. I’m stoked to get through, I had a shocker in Canada and lost first heat, so anytime you get through the first heat it always takes some of the pressure off.”
The Santa Cruz native is hoping to put in a good showing at his home break after being a part of the O’Neill Cold Water Classic throughout the long-standing contest’s entirety.
“When I was 11 I came down and watched the first contest and I’ve probably watched every event for the last 20 years,” Collins said. “If I were to ever get a win in my career on the Star and Prime series, I’d want it to be here more than anywhere.”
Evan Geiselman (New Smyrna Beach, FL), 17, charged to impressive heat victory over older brother Eric Geiselman (New Smyrna Beach, FL), 22, who finished in second, moving both of the Floridian talents through to the Round of 96.
“I’m really happy to make it through with my brother,” Geiselman said. “I think I just got the best waves. That’s kind of my game plan. I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive and get the best waves. I wanted my brother and I to be first and second, so I’m really happy. It was a little pressure having Eric in the heat, but I’m just glad we both made it through.”
Geiselman, who is the reigning ASP North America Pro Junior Series Champion, seamlessly navigated the righthand walls of Steamer Lane on his backhand, which is a notoriously tricky wave for several goofy footers.
“It’s probably one of the hardest waves for me to surf on my backhand, but it’s really fun,” Geiselman said. “I haven’t been surfing up here too much and today was probably the best surfs I’ve had even in the free-surfs.”
Jonny Craft (Carmel, CA) was another standout in the opening day of O’Neill Cold Water Classic competition. The regular-footer was in sharp form while taking out the local trials before advancing out of Round 1 over international talents Nick Riley (Queenscilff, AUS) and Jano Belo (BRA).
“I’m super stoked to make it through to the Round of 96,” Craft said. “It was kind of hard to have to do all of the trials and not even get out of the water between the last trial heat and my first heat in the Round of 128. Not being able to come in made it like surfing almost an hour heat, so I definitely felt a little tired, but I’m happy that I made it.”
The underground Californian is also hoping he can continue to build upon his impressive opening day performance when he tackles the event’s top seeds.
“It’s great to be able to compete in an event of the caliber in Santa Cruz,” Craft said. “This is one of the main events that I look forward to, because I’m up here, so I’m happy to be in it and hopefully I can continue to do well.”
O’Neill Cold Water Classic California Round of 128 Results:
Heat 1: Killian Garland (USA) 9.64, Johnny Craft (USA) 7.83, Nick Riley (AUS) 6.94, Jano Belo (BRA) 5.03
Heat 2: Damien Fahrenfort (ZAF) 9.94, David Weare (ZAF) 8.04, Dege O’Connell (HAW) 7.73, Tyler Smith (USA) 5.93
Heat 3: Joel Centeio (HAW) 13.50, Mason Ho (HAW) 12.87, Jesse Merle-Jones (HAW) 12.27, Makai McNamara (HAW) 4.07
Heat 4: Dane Gudauskas (USA) 10.00, Brian Toth (PRI) 8.77, Johnny Norris (USA) 7.56, Brendon Gibbens (ZAF) 5.73
Heat 5: Chris Ward (USA) 12.43, Shaw Kobayashi (USA) 9.33, Teppi Tajima (JPN) 6.50, Sam Lamiroy (GBR) 4.70
Heat 6: Jason Collins (USA) 14.33, Dylan Graves (PRI) 10.27, Anthony Walsh (AUS) 7.83, Naoto Takanashi (JPN) 6.60
Heat 7: Torrey Meister (HAW) 9.37, Kevin Sullivan (HAW) 8.64, Oliver Kurtz (USA) 6.64, Dylan Goodale (HAW) 6.50
Heat 8: Evan Geiselman (USA) 14.17, Eric Geiselman (USA) 11.44, Jack Perry (AUS) 4.87, Zoltan Torkos (USA) 3.90
Heat 9: Randy Bonds (USA) 13.66, Yujiro Tsuji (JPN) 9.97, Jarrad Howse (AUS) 9.60, Nic Hdez (USA) 4.70
Heat 10: Chris Waring (USA) 9.96, Heath Joske (AUS) 7.24, Liam McNamara (HAW) 6.00, Jason Harris (USA) 4.20
Heat 11: Tonino Benson (HAW) 12.87, Anthony Petruso (USA) 9.87, Brad Ettinger (USA) 9.83, Willie Safreed (USA) 6.14
Heat 12: Bud Freitas (USA) 12.67, Leigh Sedley (AUS) 9.37, Shaun Ward (USA) 9.33, Nick Rupp (USA) 8.30