SANTA CRUZ, California (Monday, November 2, 2009) – Surfers competing in the opening day of The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star PRIME O’Neill Cold Water Classic California were greeted with clean four foot (1 metre) waves at Santa Cruz’s famed pointbreak of Steamer Lane to kickoff the event’s proceedings.
The O’Neill Cold Water Classic California has undergone a major upgrade from previous years, boosting the event’s rating from an ASP 4-Star to an ASP 6-Star PRIME, which offers the maximum amount of points available towards qualification for the 2010 ASP World Tour. In addition to the premier event, the Oakley Pro Junior ASP North America Championships will be running in conjunction with the contest.
Gavin Gillette (Kilauea, HI), 23, who is staying with a Santa Cruz local surfer, relied on the advice of his friend on where to sit in the lineup and the advice paid off. Gillette crushed the day’s highest heat total of a 16.23 out of 20 while surfing the middle peak alone while his fellow competitors battled for position on the point.
“I’m staying with a local and he’s been helping me with where to sit,” Gillette said. “The original plan was to sit in the middle and I was sitting out on the main peak with three other guys, so I ended up going with my plan and jamming down to the middle peak and got some great waves.”
Gillette locked in to one beautiful righthander and unleashed a vicious forehand attack on the wave to secure the day’s highest single wave score, a 9.40 out of 10 while advancing through to the Round of 96.
“Yeah, that wave kind of floated to me and it’s less stressful when you’re on a peak by yourself,” Gillette said. “When there are two peaks, it’s kind of a gamble to sit on either one of them, but I figured it was best to sit on the one that was the least crowded.”
Gillette, who has only competed in select events on this year’s ASP WQS is looking to capitalize on the mass of points up for grabs at the end of the 2009 season to earn a solid seed for the 2010 ASP WQS.
“I still have three zeroes in my score line, so if I do this contest and do the events in Hawaii I can end up with a good seed for next year, that’s the plan,” Gillette said.
Joel Centeio (Haleiwa, HI), 26, relied on committed rail-to-rail power-surfing to dominate his opening heat today after flying in overnight from Hawaii. The powerful Hawaiian was concerned about making the adjustment from big Sunset Beach surf and warm water to the smaller surf and cold water of Santa Cruz, but Centeio seemed to immediately find a rhythm in his heat.
“I was surfing Sunset Beach in Hawaii yesterday and just caught the redeye flight over,” Centeio said. “I was pretty worried because it’s such a big climate change from Hawaii and the water is so cold. I was riding a 7’3″ yesterday and today I’m riding a 6’0″. I was a bit worried, so in my heat I tried to just get a few early and warm up and it worked out for me.”
After spending several years on the ASP WQS, Centeio proved he is no stranger to Steamer Lane by posting one of the day’s highest heat totals, a 15.76 out of 20, with his lethal forehand attack on the waves pouring in a middle peak.
“It’s a great wave,” Centeio said. “It’s really tidal, so on the higher tides it can be a little tough, but as the tide drops out it gets really good and you get those perfect peeling rights. I was excited to be back here, it’s been about two or three years, but I’m just stoked to be back.”
Since Centeio has not been competing full-time on this year’s ASP WQS, he is relying on this year’s O’Neill Cold Water Classic California’s top talent as a warm up for the upcoming leg of premier ASP WQS events in Hawaii.
“I haven’t done too may ‘QS events and I’m trying to get some points,” Centeio said. “It’s good to do this event to build some confidence before Hawaii because those events can be the hardest in the world. Surfing in this event will help me prepare for that.”
Ricky Whitlock (San Diego, CA), 23, who earned his career best result last week with a ninth place finish at the O’Neill Cold Water Classic Canada, carried his momentum down to Santa Cruz and dominated a stacked heat over young Australian talent Stuart Kennedy (Lennox Head, AUS), 19, who advanced in second, while defeating local standout Bud Freitas (Santa Cruz, CA), 25.
“The ninth place finish in Canada was definitely a big confidence booster for me,” Whitlock said. “I had two zeros in my score line, so it really helped my result and at this point I have nothing to lose and everything to gain out there.”
Although Steamer Lane is known for its reeling right-handers, Whitlock honed in on the steep lefthanders peeling into the shallow reef from middle peak to earn his top scores.
“I’ve surfed here a lot throughout the contests in the past years,” Whitlock said. “This is my fourth year at this event, but I was able to get a couple of good lefts out there which takes a lot of pressure off because it spreads things out a little, you don’t have everyone sitting on top of each other behind the cliff.”
O’Neill Cold Water Classic California competition will continue tomorrow with heat 15 of the Round of 128 at 7:30am local time.
For all of the LIVE O’Neill Cold Water Classic California and Oakley Pro Junior ASP North America Championships action log on to www.oneill.com/cwc/california
For additional Oakley Pro Junior ASP North America Championships information log on to www.oakleyprojunior.com
For additional ASP information log on to www.aspworldtour.com or www.aspnorthamerica.org
O’Neill Cold Water Classic Round of 128 Results:
Heat 1: Evan Geiselman (USA) 11.97, Yujiro Tsuji (JPN) 11.26, Mike Losness (USA) 9.43, Alejandro Moreda (PRI) 7.77
Heat 2: David Richards (NZL) 15.33, Tommy O’Brien (USA) 9.00, Justin McBride (USA) 6.94, Shota Nakamura (JPN) 5.34
Heat 3: Joel Centeio (HAW) 15.76, Noi Kaulukukui (USA) 13.40, Kevin Sullivan (HAW) 13.00, Manuel Selman (CHL) 11.43,
Heat 4: Micah Byrne (USA) 11.84, Ola Eleogram (HAW) 10.50, Joe Tanaka (JPN) 5.86, Che Stang (USA) 4.14
Heat 5: Casey Brown (HAW) 14.83, Jeronimo Vargas (BRA) 12.40, Tyler Smith (USA) 11.50, Michael Bailey (USA)
Heat 6: Kyle Knox (USA) 13.43, Darrell Goodrum (USA) 13.17, Beyrick De Vries (ZAF) 12.90, Wade Goodall (AUS) 11.80
Heat 7: Andrew Bennett (USA) 12.07, Nick White (NZL) 10.50, Oliver Kurtz (USA) 8.46, Angelo Lozano (MEX) 7.13
Heat 8: Bruno Rodrigues (BRA) 11.17, Matt Pagan (USA) 10.80, Blake Howard (USA) 8.24, Matt Meola (HAW) 4.98
Heat 9: Ricky Whitlock (USA) 14.40, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 10.77, Bud Freitas (USA) 9.67, Ryah Arthur (USA) 9.20
Heat 10: Brett Barley (USA) 13.50 Parrish Byrne (AUS) 11.40, Jason Harris (USA) 9.83, Willie Safreed (USA) 7.50
Heat 11: Dylan Southworth (MEX) 12.43, Torrey Meister (HAW) 11.27, Brent Reilly (USA) 6.27, Cheyne Willis (HAW) 1.50
Heat 12: Chris Waring (USA) 13.33, Jesse Heilman (USA) 10.83, Matt Keenan (USA) 9.53, Matt King (USA) 6.26
Heat 13: Gavin Gillette (HAW) 16.23, Anthony Petruso (USA) 11.84, Dillon Perillo (USA) 11.83, Sterling Spencer (USA) 6.17
Heat 14: Izuki Tanaka (JPN) 11.10, Sean Holmes (ZAF) 11.04, Naoto Takanashi (JPN) 9.14, Dallas Petersen (AUS) 4.67