The O'Neill Cold Water Classic Series 2011 dives into the deep south of the Pacific Ocean for the first event of the year being staged at Gisborne on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
The event will be the richest to ever frequent the shores of New Zealand with a massive $145,000 (USD) up for grabs.
Labeled the O'Neill Cold Water Classic, the event, contested between March 23rd - 29th is set to receive a big south swell being generated out of the Roaring 40's below New Zealand. The weather system is set to cool the temperatures both in and out of the water as New Zealand changes seasons and heads toward the winter months.
Surfers from sixteen countries are making their way to New Zealand for the event. This will give Gisborne a truly international flavour over the next ten days.
The entrants include eleven surfers from the top 50 in the world with 46 entrants inside the top 100.
The number one seed will be 2010 world number 27 Adam Melling (AUS) with the focus also resting on 2010 O'Neill Coldwater Classic Series winner Shaun Cansdell (AUS) who pocketed $50,000 (USD) for winning the series in 2010.
New Zealand's hopes rely on fourteen entries with local Gisborne surfer Richard Christie going into the event as the top seeded Kiwi.
Christie finished 64th on the ASP World Tour in 2010 after travelling to no less than ten countries and competing in close to twenty events. His ranking of 64th is the highest ranking by a Kiwi in over a decade.
"It is a dream come true eh" said Christie of being able to compete in such a high caliber event in his own backyard. "I definitely didn't expect to be doing this in 2011 but I am stoked that O'Neill decided to look at Gisborne for the comp."
"I grew up surfing these waves, I know how the banks change. Me and the other local guys feel comfortable out here and I am sure some of the Gisborne guys will do well, I am hoping I am one of them."
While praising the event coming to New Zealand Christie also noted the importance for the sport of surfing. "These guys are another level above what you see in New Zealand and so professional as well. It will be good for everyone to see what we see and good for kids to witness - hopefully it will inspire some of them to chase their dreams on the ASP World Tour."
Two New Zealand surfers have secured wildcard entries into the event, both hailing from Mount Maunganui - Nick White and Tim O'Connor. White has previously contested the ASP World Tour in 2009 but opted to stay in New Zealand and compete over the past 12 months.
The wildcard entry has White thrilled to head to Gisborne next week.
"It is so cool to receive a wildcard. I am going to go down, have fun and see how I go" said White who has been surfing as much as possible over the past few weeks in preparation for the event.
"I reckon it is real cool for New Zealand to have this major event here with all the high level guys coming to New Zealand and checking out our country. It will also be good for the New Zealand surfers and spectators to check it out."
The event will also featured the likes of Billy Stairmand and the Quinn brothers Jay and Maz, Maz coming out of international retirement to compete at the event.
The Series was launched in 2009 with the aim of discovering and exploring new locations around the world and it continues to look for new and exciting surf spots.
Gisborne offers up everything that the CWC Series represents; world-class remote waves, in the cold water of course, also a strong Maori culture to bring further meaning to the event.
Gisborne is one place in the world that is all too familiar with "firsts". It is the first city in the world to greet the sun every morning. And it was the first area of New Zealand sighted by the crew of Captain James Cook's ship, the Endeavour.
Sitting on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, Turanga Nui A Kiwa, is known for its high quality surf based on the coast's exposure to a 180-degree swell window. Add to this an assortment of reefs, beaches, points and bars all facing different directions, as well as a lack of crowds due to its remote location, and this is guaranteed to be an epic kick-off for the O'Neill Cold Water Classic Series 2011.
Following the launch in New Zealand, the O'Neill Cold Water Classic Series will travel to its northernmost destination - Thurso, Scotland, for the 6 Star ASP World Tour event from April 13 until April 19, before culminating once again at the 6 Star Prime ASP World Tour event, the O'Neill Cold Water Classic Series, California, in Santa Cruz, October 24-30, 2011.
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