Santa Cruz Surfer Nat Young Pitches Himself into the Void
SUNSET BEACH, Oahu/Hawaii - It was tough to spot Santa Cruz teenager Nat Young, 17, in the lineup at Sunset Beach today. Out in the water for round two of the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing, Young’s windblown shock of white hair, white surfboard and white contest jersey blended perfectly with the white-caps and spray that ruled the day.
It was a tough morning for even the most seasoned Sunset competitors as the eight- to ten-foot surf rapidly declined and competition was halted after only eight heats. But Young was full of smiles, braces gleaming, after a self-confessed clueless performance that saw him advance to round three behind local charger Kekoa Bacalso.
It’s not that his surfing doesn’t measure up Young is a former NSSA champion and won the 2008 O’Neill Coldwater Classic back home at Santa Cruz. He just has zero experience at Sunset Beach, which the champions will tell you is a tough venue to master. Add the world’s top-ranked surfers and the prestige of the $1,000,000 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, and it’s obviously an overwhelming scene for a rookie.
"I’m so stoked, it was pretty tough out there," said Young, after his heat. "I don’t know the wave at all. I just kind of caught a bunch of waves and it worked out.
"It’s definitely hard to find (the waves), especially not being from here and not surfing out there. I have no idea which waves are good. It was a coin toss and I’m stoked I made it.
"The waves here are definitely bigger and trickier than home."
Young got his start in the event with an O’Neill wildcard and plans to use the opportunity for some uncrowded learning time at a venue that can make and break careers.
"O’Neill gave me a wildcard in this and I’m happy I could get in. I did Haleiwa and I did bad, but it’s been fun. Normally I would be here just free surfing, but to be able to do contests and free surf is pretty nice."
The top-scoring surfer today was South African Damien Fahrenfort, whose sure-footed, powerful attack surged out of reach of his seasoned rivals Luke Munro (Australia), Liam McNamara (Hawaii), Kieren Horn (CA).
Others to advance today included Andy Irons (Hawaii) Joel Centeio (Hawaii) - who won his ninth consecutive heat of the 2009 Vans Triple Crown series today Marco Giorgio (Uruguay) and Jihad Khodr (Brazil).
The O’Neill World Cup of Surfing is the second jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing presented by Rockstar Energy Drink. The winner of this event will receive $20,000. The Vans Triple Crown series title, awarded to the most consistent performer across all three events, carries a $50,000 bonus.