Year of the Rat

Jason "Ratboy" Collins is well versed in the way of the Lane, can he upset the title race there? Ryan Craig

O'Neill and the ASP have announced that Santa Cruz fixture Jason "Ratboy" Collins will get one of two wildcard invites into the Cold Water Classic, which begins in earnest on Nov. 1.

"It's pretty cool for a local to get the opportunity to go out and surf against talent like Slater and Parko, guys you've looked up to. It's also cool to see the event get upgraded, like it used to be. We used to get guys like Martin Potter, Tom Curren, everybody would come up here. But it's been quite a few years," said Collins.

The Cold Water Classic is the second to last stop of the 2012 ASP World Tour, and with a neck-and-neck race for the world title, there's a lot at stake as the world's best take to Northern California's waters.

Kelly Slater, who finds himself second in the ratings behind Joel Parkinson, hasn't surfed the wave for 20 years. "And I lost my heat," remembered the 11-time world champ. Meanwhile, Aussies Parkinson and Mick Fanning will be equally new to the break, while fourth-rated John Florence should feel relatively comfortable due to O'Neill being his sponsor and the frequent trips to town he's made.

"It's pretty crazy to have a World Tour event at The Lane. Not only the fact that it's a 'CT, but also the fact that there is a good possibility someone could be crowned World Champ here! I'm really excited to see the whole set up and the difference from the past few years," said Nat Young, who has won at the Lane before and will surf the trials on Oct. 31 to try and get into the event. He's hoping to be the first surfer from Santa Cruz to qualify for the world tour in over a decade.

Surfline.com's long-range charts indicate a good dose of northwest swell for the opening day of the event, followed by another pulse later in the waiting period. It's primetime for Steamer Lane, Ratboy's pumped, Slater and crew are locked in a title race -- let's do this thing.