Autumn Hays (USA) and Michael Dunphy (USA) claimed wins at the World Surf League (WSL) O’Neill Cold Water Classic, a North America Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000, and added their name to Santa Cruz surfing history. Hays delivered Santa Cruz its first Cold Water Classic title since Nat Young (USA) in stunning form as Dunphy adds his name to the event’s iconic legacy of victors and pushes him to No. 1 on the North America QS rankings.The women’s Final ensued between hometown hero Autumn Hays and event standout Kirra Pinkerton (USA). The first exchange proved a critical one with Pinkerton besting Hays with a 5.50 (out of a possible 10) to Hays’ 5.00. Pinkerton stayed busy, adding a 4.00 to her score line as Hays searched for a back up. With Hays’ local crowd behind her every step of the way, she received a Steamer Lane gift that she was able to accrue a 5.37 on and turn the heat. Hays then found a 5.33 to better her lead in the dying moments, securing her first O’Neill Cold Water Classic QS victory.
Pictured: Autumn Hays (USA) (L) and Michael Dunphy (USA) (R) emerged victorious and added their name to O'Neill Cold Water Classic history. Credit: © WSL / Duckart
“It feels really good to win a competition, I was 18 when I won my last one and this one means a lot more to win in front of my home crowd,” said Hays. “Just catching waves and hearing how psyched up everyone got actually got me so fired up even when I needed a score. It was the coolest thing ever hearing everyone like that. Thank you to the Santa Cruz community for coming down and cheering me on, it means the world. I’m so stoked I can say I won the Cold Water now.”
Hometown hero Autumn Hays delivered a solid showing in her Quarterfinal clash with defending event winner Zoe Benedetto (USA) to take Santa Cruz into the Semifinals. Hays then had to overcome Huntington Beach’s emerging threat Sara Freyre and found her way into her first QS Final since 2018 before addding her name to Santa Cruz surfing history.A new men's victor awaited with a Final match up featuring QS veteran Michael Dunphy (USA) and event standout Davi Toledo (BRA). Dunphy's sensational form continued into the Final, opening up with an impressive 6.33 before staying busy against Toledo. But, Dunphy wasn't done and found a Steamer Lane gem to capitalize on for an excellent 8.33 and putting Toledo in a combination situation, meaning Toledo needed two new wave to equal Dunphy's 14.66 (out of a possible 20) heat total. Toledo was able to respond, posting a solid 7.00 on his forehand attack, but would not be able to find a back up before time expired, crowning Dunphy the 2023 event victor.
"I can't thank the local community enough for taking me in and getting some waves, I'm so pumped" said Dunphy. "It's really special. I've been coming here for a really long time hanging with Nat [Young] and I've been coming here since I was 15, spending a month on the couch and just surfing The Lane a bunch. I never won a QS in California before so I'm stoked to do it and a perfect day for it."
A Quarterfinalist in 2022, Dunphy broke through to the Semifinals after taking down 2024 CT rookie Kade Matson (USA) in a back-and-forth battle. Dunphy then moved into an all-star clash with defending event winner Kolohe Andino (USA) and was able to keep Andino's surge at bay to take on Toledo in the Final to claim his first win of the season and move to No. 1 on the rankings.
Event Standouts Toledo and Pinkerton Claim Runner-up Finishes
Kirra Pinkerton’s (USA) fiery run through the 2023/2024 earned her a third Semifinal appearance after overcoming Carlsbad, California’s newest contender Reid Van Wagoner in Quarterfinal, Heat 4. But, Pinkerton wasn’t done yet and overpowered fellow San Clemente competitor Eden Walla (USA) in their Semifinal bout, sending Pinkerto to her first Final since 2018. Thought it was Hays’ day at home in the end, Pinkerton earns vital points toward her 2024 Challenger Series qualification campaign.
“I'm super stoked to have made the Final after a few heats I squeaked by and to compete against Autumn [Hays] was pretty awesome and I'm super stoked she won,” said Pinkerton. “For me consistency is the biggest thing. I've struggled with that in the past and lately I've been working on it and it seems to be paying off a litte bit. I hope I win an event this year because I got pretty darn close here.”
A dynamic display from Davi Toledo (BRA) set the standard for men’s competition in an explosive Quarterfinal showing against Hagan Johnson (USA). Toledo’s aerial antics, combined with impressive rail work earned a 14.50 heat total heading into the Semifinals. Toledo matched with Quarterfinal standout Levi Slawson (USA) in a tough bout that Toledo was able to overcome by the slightest of margins. This marked Toledo's first-ever QS Final as he heads into the back half of 2023/2024 with renewed vigor.
"It's my first time here and I surfed this wave for the first time Monday then I got really sick and just going through it so I just want to thank God for giving me the strength," said Toledo. "I'll be entering more events this year now. I just want to thank everyone here for showing up, the other finalists Kirra [Pinkerton], Autumn [Hays], and Dunphy, great job."
Buzzer-beater drama finished Quarterfinal action with a rematch of the 2022 Final between Taro Watanabe (USA) and Kolohe Andino (USA). Watanabe seemed to be headed for the Semifinals once more before Andino stood up with :01 remaining and delivered a 6.00, needing a 5.91. Andino then faced off with eventual victor Dunphy in a Steamer Lane showdown with Dunphy getting the nod.
One of Huntington Beach’s emerging threats Sara Freyre (USA) held firm in a stout Quarterfinal duel with fellow rising talent Talia Swindal (USA) for her first-career Semifinal appearance. But, an in-form Hays wasn’t to be stopped in her hometown and surged past Freyre into the Final. Freyre remains in the Top 10 of the North America rankings moving to the back half of the season.
Event standout Eden Walla (USA) continued her brilliant run through competition, eliminating fellow San Clemente up-and-coming competitor Mia McLeish in their Quarterfinal bout. Walla then found herself in another all-San Clemente affair in the Semifinals, taking on 2023/2024 standout Kirra Pinkerton and fell just short of her first Finals appearance after staking a career-best, Semifinal appearance.
Entering his third-straight Finals Day, Levi Slawson (USA) decimated Steamer Lane in his Quarterfinal appearance to earn a near-perfect 9.17 over Jose Lopez (VEN). Slawson then took on fellow Quarterfinal standout Davi Toledo (BRA) and a wave-starved heat ended Slawson's dream run toward a third-straight Final.
The 2023/2024 North America QS season continues at the SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay presented by Surfing For Hope, alongside the first 2023/2024 North America Regional Longboard Qualifying Series event, the Surfing For Hope Longboard Classic, beginning December 4 - 10.
Updated North America Women’s QS Rankings:
1. Zoe Benedetto (USA)
2. Kirra Pinkerton (USA)
3. Sawyer Lindblad (USA)
4. Bella Kenworthy (USA)
5. Talia Swindal (USA)
Updated North America Men’s QS Rankings:
1. Michael Dunphy (USA)
2. John Mel (USA)
3. Levi Slawson (USA)
4. Taro Watanabe (USA)
5. Ryan Huckabee (USA)
O’Neill Cold Water Classic Women’s Final Results:
1. Autumn Hays (USA) 10.70 1,000 points
2. Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 9.50 800 points
O’Neill Cold Water Classic Men’s Final Results:
1. Michael Dunphy (USA) 14.66 1,000 points
2. Davi Toledo (BRA) 11.17 800 points
O’Neill Cold Water Classic Women’s Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: Autumn Hays (USA) 10.00 DEF. Sara Freyre (USA) 9.73
HEAT 2: Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 11.50 DEF. Eden Walla (USA) 8.33
O’Neill Cold Water Classic Men’s Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: Davi Toledo (BRA) 5.93 DEF. Levi Slawson (USA) 1.43
HEAT 2: Michael Dunphy (USA) 13.50 DEF. Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.60
O’Neill Cold Water Classic Women’s Quarterfinal Results:
HEAT 1: Autumn Hays (USA) 12.17 DEF. Zoe Benedetto (USA) 8.93
HEAT 2: Sara Freyre (USA) 9.20 DEF. Talia Swindal (USA) 8.67
HEAT 3: Eden Walla (USA) 11.67 DEF. Mia McLeish (USA) 8.94
HEAT 4: Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 9.06 DEF. Reid Van Wagoner (USA) 8.50
O’Neill Cold Water Classic Men’s Quarterfinal Results:
HEAT 1: Davi Toledo (BRA) 14.50 DEF. Hagan Johnson (USA) 10.67
HEAT 2: Levi Slawson (USA) 14.50 DEF. Jose Lopez (VEN) 4.93
HEAT 3: Michael Dunphy (USA) 11.13 DEF. Kade Matson (USA) 9.34
HEAT 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.50 DEF. Taro Watanabe (USA) 12.40