As the longest running surf contest in North America, Santa Cruz’s Coldwater Classic has been drawing some of the biggest names in the sport for decades. While the contest has been a 6-star ’QS and World Tour event in the past, this year we’ll see an entirely different format. In an attempt to shine light on today’s blue-collar competitors—while simultaneously sprinkling in a dash of democracy to the event—the contest has barred sponsored surfers from the competition.
The new format welcomes 16 competitors: 10 unsponsored surfers will be invited and eight unsponsored competitors will be trimmed down to four via an online vote. Two wildcard surfers will be awarded slots as well. The event winner receives a sponsorship from O’Neill and $50,000 to chase the ‘QS.
With the comp scheduled for early November, contest officials recently released the names of the 10 invited surfers and the eight surfers that will be voted upon by the public. Each of the eight surfers submitted a 30- to 60-second video clip in hopes of making the cut. Among the final eight stands Hawaii’s Kalani Robb. A prominent member of the Momentum Generation, Kalani, now 36 years old, competed on the World Tour for a decade until he stepped off the circuit in 2005. But recently, while organizing our Momentum Reunion trip for the November issue, Kalani was adamant that he still felt that he had more to give to professional surfing. And after garnering the cover of that very issue, he was right.
“I like the idea that this event opens up the spotlight to more of the unknown, underground guys and allows them to make a name for themselves,” said Kalani. “I’m excited to see how the whole online video segment voting plays out. If I happen to make it into the event, I’d be super stoked. And yeah, if I were to actually win the whole thing, I’d definitely use that sponsorship to do a few ’QS events and make some cool clips. But then again, if I didn’t win, I’d be really stoked to see an underground guy come out on top, too.”
Also on the roster is Santa Cruz’s Noi Kaulukukui. Although he’s of Hawaiian descent, Noi is a Santa Cruz local through and through and has forged a very formidable reputation for himself out at The Lane. Like Kalani, Noi still feels that he has more to give to professional surfing. “I’ve recently taken a job with Smith and sort of thought that my days as a professional surfer were behind me,” says Noi. “But if I could win this event and get a sponsorship and chase the ’QS again, that could really change my life a lot. It could give me a second chance at my dream.”
For Killian Garland, who’s been sponsorless for more than a year now, the opportunity to compete at the Coldwater for an O’Neill sponsorship couldn’t have come at a better time. “I’m really pumped to have a shot at surfing in the event. I’m going to try and do a social media push to help drum up some votes. I’d love to get back out there and start chasing the ‘QS again,” he said. “Plus, I’d love an opportunity to compete at The Lane again. I have a lot of respect for Santa Cruz and the locals down there.”
The following eight surfers will be whittled down to four by the public in an online vote. Voting begins on Sept. 30 and will run until Oct. 6. Vote here.
These 10 surfers have been invited into the event. Two wildcards will be announced at a later date.