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Toby Martin wins O'Neill Cold Water Classic in epic surf at the Lane
Photos: Photos: Marc Prefontaine and Elisse Marinacci/
October 22, 2006
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Even the Eastside wanted the Lane to fire for the 2006 O'Neill Cold Water Classic. If you know anything about Santa Cruz's virulent cross-town rivalry this will give you some idea of the level of goodwill that surrounds the only big-time pro surfing event held north of Golden West Blvd.
Sitting in the Pleasure Point lineup on Saturday afternoon you could hear the chatter.

"Man, it's great they finally got some waves..."

"I heard the Slot was overhead even at high tide..."

"Heard those guys were ripping..."
"Those guys" meaning anyone with an 831 area code, including Surf City North stalwarts Josh Loya, Josh Mulcoy and Randy Bonds -- the two Joshes having surfed their way to the final on Sunday.

But after so many disappointing events, wave-wise, the sense of relief was palpable. And why not? Steamer Lane is, with the exception of the Banzai Pipeline, the world's best venue for a surf contest. And it certainly seemed that way on the final day of competition, with eight-to ten-foot sets sweeping around the sandstone point and humping through center peak, brassy sunshine glinting off the shimmering expanse of Monterey Bay and an enthusiastic throng crowding up against the cliff railing that is all that separates the Steamer Lane spectator from the Steamer lane competitor. Oh, and 60-degree ocean temps. (The Warm Water Classic?)

It was a Cold Water dream day -- especially after so many nightmares. Many an O'Neill heat has been held in a two-foot, kelpy stew, the WQS warriors sitting so close to the cliff that the fans above can't crane their necks far out enough to see them, forced to rely on the commentators to describe the action.
But after so many disappointing events, wave-wise, the sense of relief was palpable. And why not? Steamer Lane is, with the exception of the Banzai Pipeline, the world's best venue for a surf contest.
No such problem this year, although the Santa Cruz juice seemed to flummox plenty of the competitors, as if not expecting any real surf, they weren't prepared for it. These are guys who travel with coffin bags filled with seven 6'2"s. The mono-quiver handicap was evident even for stars like Australia's Toby Martin, whose board seemed incapable of keeping its fins in the water on anything but a top turn.

The judges, too, seemed a little confused by the pumping surf. Case in point: the Oakley Pro Junior, run concurrently with the Cold Water. The final was totally dominated by Palos Verdes' Alex Gray, who caught a succession of set waves, confidently linking bottom-to-top turns and roundhouse wraps all the way through the Slot. Easily the class of the event, and yet the final was won by Australia's Dion Atkinson who fell on all of his waves but one after receiving eight and nine-plus scores on two shoulder-high waves that he caught off the point.

Otherwise, the 'QS boys took full advantage of the dropping tide during the semis, the major drama being the mid-heat withdrawal of Timmy Reyes. The Huntington Beach machine (granted semi-local status due to O'Neill sponsorship affiliation and S.C. girlfriend Taylor) ripped though the preliminaries, and was facing Josh Loya, Nat Curran and Maui's Ian Walsh. Loya emerged as the biggest threat, surfing smooth and relaxed, like man among boys, as befitting the event's oldest competitor. Then Reyes caught one of the best waves of the afternoon, an eight-foot Slot beauty that provided some real running room. A bobbled top turn, however, put Reyes one step behind the beat. This led to an off-timed floater on the inside section that saw Reyes plummet onto the deck of his board, and then come up in obvious pain. Washing into the cliff he retired from competition with a strained knee -- a tough sprain for Reyes, who after years of showing potential seems to finally be hitting his stride.

With Reyes out, Loya and Curran moved though into the final where they'd meet Toby Martin and Hawaii's Jesse Merle-Jones, the lone goofy-footer. The huge crowd lining the cliff were understandably pulling for Loya, who had already surfed what seemed like a half-dozen heats that day. In fact, all the competitors seemed a bit tired by the time the 35-minute final began -- began with a bang in the form of a ten-foot set. Wave choice was crucial; some of the bigger waves flattened out to endless shoulders. In the end it was Aussie Martin who snagged a couple open-faced, medium-sized waves and energetically snapped off-the-top, if a tad shakily. Nat Curran placed second, with Merle-Jones and an obviously exhausted Loya taking out third and fourth.

But as the four lucky surfers climbed their way back up Steamer Lane's slippery cliffs, you got the feeling none of them had really lost. After a week of solid surfing, great waves and perfect weather, the 2006 O'Neill Cold Water Classic was the big winner. Finally.



Quarterfinal 1: Tim Reyes (USA) 15.63, Nathaniel Curran (USA) 14.04, Nathan Yeomans (USA) 11.33, Roy Powers (HAW) 9.27
Quarterfinal 2: Josh Loya (USA) 13.76, Ian Walsh (HAW) 13.20, Cory Lopez (USA) 10.80, Ryan Helm (USA) 5.67
Quarterfinal 3: Jesse Merle-Jones (HAW) 11.67, Toby Martin (AUS) 9.70, Dusty Payne (HAW) 7.73, Ben Bourgeois (USA) 4.80
Quarterfinal 4: Josh Mulcoy (USA) 12.67, Luke Munro (AUS) 12.63, Mike Losness (USA) 10.34, Jay Thompson (AUS) 6.54

Semifinal 1: Josh Loya (USA) 11.90, Nathaniel Curran (USA) 8.43, Tim Reyes (USA) 8.00, Ian Walsh (HAW) 6.83
Semifinal 2: Jesse Merle-Jones (HAW) 12.60, Toby Martin (AUS) 12.50, Luke Munro (AUS) 8.50, Josh Mulcoy (USA) 7.13

Final O'Neill Cold Water Classic
1 - Toby Martin (AUS) 11.73
2 - Nathaniel Curran (USA) 11.60
3 - Jesse Merle-Jones (HAW) 9.93
4 - Josh Loya (USA) 8.16



Quarterfinal 1: Dion Atkinson (AUS) 12.33, Eddie Lester (USA) 12.20, Dylan Graves (PRI) 9.54, Devon Tresher (USA) 3.87
Quarterfinal 2: Eric Geiselman (USA) 15.50, Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 9.50, Ricky Whitlock (USA) 8.13, Kilian Garland (USA) 6.57
Quarterfinal 3: Alex Gray (USA) 13.76, Alejandro Moreda (PRI) 10.83, Tom Rudd (AUS) 7.10, Drew Ventura (USA) 6.34
Quarterfinal 4: Nick Rozsa (USA) 12.20, Dusty Payne (HAW) 9.73, Brandon Ragenovich (USA) 9.50, Granger Larsen (HAW) 7.33

Semifinal 1: Dion Atkinson (AUS) 15.10, Eric Geiselman (USA) 14.67, Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 12.00, Eddie Lester (USA) 10.17
Semifinal 2: Alex Gray (USA) 11.40, Dusty Payne (HAW) 11.03, Nick Rozsa (USA) 9.87, Alejandro Moreda (PRI) 9.80

Final Oakley Pro Junior
1 - Dion Atkinson (AUS) 17.50
2 - Alex Gray (USA) 16.26
3 - Eric Geiselman (USA) 12.93
4 - Dusty Payne (HAW) 9.17
Saturday's coverage
Friday's coverage