SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- In pristine 6-foot surf at Steamer Lane, Taj Burrow won the O'Neill Coldwater Classic. In a back-and-forth, hard-fought final, Burrow edged out fellow Australian Matt Wilkinson. In the dying seconds, Wilkinson had the winning wave but fell on his last maneuver and missed the score by four-tenths of a point.
"It feels so good, I'm so stoked right now," said Burrow, whose patience and experience came through in the end. "Wilko surfed a great event, he was on point all week, he almost had me there at the end. The waves really turned on today. It's not the easiest wave to figure out, but you couldn't ask for more. The surf's pumping, the weather's beautiful. I'm really stoked right now.
This was Burrow's second win of the 2012 season and breaks a streak of two consecutive 13th-place finishes.
"It feels really good to have some momentum going into Hawaii," said Burrow. "I didn't have a great run in Europe, so it's great to get back on the horse."
For Wilkinson, who was surfing in his first ASP World Tour final, his runner-up result comes much-needed, as his world tour career hangs in the balance. Ranked 30th in the world going into the event, his results throughout the year have been a mix of 13th- and 25th-place finishes. After winning the 2010 Coldwater, when the event was an ASP qualifying event, he came into the 2012 event feeling confident and prepared.
"There's good energy here, I love this town. You can really feel all the support from the cliff when you're in the water. It's been a fun week," said Wilkinson.
As for the world title race, consider the Coldwater classic a push. Nothing gained, nothing lost by Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson. An hour and a half into the day, Kelly Slater faced off against Adriano De Souza. In what might be the best rivalry on tour right now, the two traded scores. Slater blew minds with a huge 360 rotator attempt on a left but didn't land it. Had he stuck it, the ride would have been a hands-down 10. Instead, De Souza put a couple of winning scores on the board and moved on.
The door had swung open for Joel Parkinson -- all he had to do was walk through it. But Travis Logie, who much like Wilkinson came into the Coldwater desperately needing a result, surfed his heart out. All Parkinson needed was a 5.5 to advance on to the semifinals and put more distance between him and Slater, but his last-ditch effort ran away from him and he was forced to eject into the whitewater.
Parkinson, Slater, Mick Fanning and John Florence will now vie for the 2012 title at the Billabong Pipeline Masters this December.
"We're running all the scenarios now, but all four of them are still in it," reported ASP media manager Dave Prodan. "Hawaii's going to be very interesting."
Losing early at the Coldwater, Florence and Fanning have their work cut out for them, while Slater and Parko are neck-and-neck. The ASP plans to release their official world title scenarios later in the day as they finish calculations; stay tuned for an update.
All told, it's been a successful event in Santa Cruz. The weather and waves cooperated, and the locals reveled in it all.
"It's a great thing for this town," said local surfing legend Anthony Ruffo, who was recently released from Santa Cruz County Jail after serving time for a drug conviction. Ruffo made his name surfing the Lane and has seen the good and the bad come and go for the past 25 years. "It's so important to have a world tour event here. Just watch: The level of surfing here is going to come up so much after this. The kids coming up in town see all these guys and it pushes them to up their game. It's been a very positive thing for the entire town."
As soon as the contest ended, everybody scrambled to go find some surf of their own. Northern California's been at its best the past couple of days, and with a rain storm on the horizon, nobody was going to let it go to waste. As mentioned, the world tour will now turn its attention to Hawaii and the Pipe Masters. Florence and Slater have to be considered clear favorites, but as we've seen, anything can happen.
O'NEILL COLDWATER CLASSIC FINAL RESULTS:
1. Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.10
2. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 12.70
O'NEILL COLDWATER CLASSIC SEMIFINALS RESULTS:
SF 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.57 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 12.40
SF 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 17.73 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.10
O'NEILL COLDWATER CLASSIC QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.83 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 8.60
QF 2: Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.83 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.00
O'NEILL COLDWATER CLASSIC ROUND 5 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.16 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 6.70
Heat 2: Travis Logie (ZAF) 10.50 def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 8.90
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.00 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 8.00
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.50 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 9.40
CURRENT ASP WCT TOP 5 (After O'Neill Coldwater Classic):
1. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 53,900 pts
2. Kelly Slater (USA) 50,700 pts
3. Mick Fanning (AUS) 47,000 pts
4. John John Florence (HAW) 44,350 pts
5. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 42,350 pts