Kolohe Andino (USA) and Zoe Benedetto (USA) claimed incredible wins at the World Surf League (WSL) O’Neill Cold Water Classic, a North America Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000, in solid, three-to-four foot swell at the iconic Steamer Lane providing moments of suspense and action throughout Finals Day.
Pictured: Kolohe Andino (USA) (L) and Zoe Benedetto (USA) (R) added their names to an illustrious history of Santa Cruz, California, surfing. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
Andino and Benedetto etched their names in Santa Cruz, Calfornia, surfing history with their respective wins as the local community attended in the masses to watch the conclusion to competition.
The men’s Final kicked off with a crucial exchange between Andino and one of North America’s top threats, Taro Watanabe (USA), with Watanabe earning the better of it – a 7.93 (out of a possible 10). Watanabe backed up his wave with a 5.17 as Andino’s initial 7.17 went without a scoring back up until the dying minutes after a near 20-minute lull gave way to Steamer Lane providing the Championship Tour (CT) veteran a golden opportunity that he capitalized on. Andino’s 7.23 pushed him ahead before an epic paddle battle ensued, and took the nod in, as he spun around with priority unleash his world-class forehand one more time for a 7.63. Watanabe’s final effort fell just shy of the requirement as Andino added his name to the iconic Cold Water Classic lineage. "I love coming here to Santa Cruz, it's such a beautiful place and to win this event and add my name to the long list of gnarly Lane surfers is rad," said Andino. "To have a flurry at the end (of that Final) was really exciting. If Taro (Watanabe) gets to the Tour one day he'll do some damage." Andino’s mounted a critical comeback in the dying minutes against Santa Cruz’s own Shaun Burns (USA) during their wave-for-wave Quarterfinal bout before moving into the Semifinals against event standout Ian Crane (USA). The CT veteran unleashed some of his best surfing of the event over Crane, earning a near-perfect 9.70 and 17.77 heat total.
Florida’s own, Benedetto, kickstarted her Final with an impressive 7.33, utilizing her powerful forehand attack. The 17-year-old then found an inside gem to unload a two-turn combination on and put the pressure on Bella Kenworthy (USA) with a 7.50. The San Clemente competitor, Kenworthy, couldn’t find an answer back and headed into the 25-minute mark in search of a scoring ride. Kenworthy was able to break the combination situation, but still needed an excellent 8.76. (Full interview in video above) "I'm so excited to win here," said Benedetto. "Surfing against one of my best friends, Bella (Kenworthy), was amazing and she pushes my surfing to its best. Thank you so much to the local community here and coming out, it was a really great event." The Palm City, Florida, competitor had to overcome San Clemente's newest QS talent Mia McLeish before taking on fellow Challenger Series contender Havanna Cabrero (PRI) where she posted near-excellent scores in both affairs en route to her dominant Final. Now, the 17-year-old prepares for the Challenger Series conclusion on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
Pictured: Taro Watanabe's (USA) form was undeniable, taking down CT standout Griffin Colapinto (USA) on the way to his runner-up result. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
Watanabe’s incredible start to Finals Day left spectators in awe as he overpowered CT standout Griffin Colapinto (USA) in their Quarterfinal clash, earning an excellent 8.07 in the affair. The 20-year-old then had to overcome Griffin’s fellow San Clemente competitor Cole Houshmand (USA) in the Semifinals that went down to the final minutes with Watanabe needing a score that he delivered before time expired.
"I'm happy, I got to surf against one of my favorite surfers, Griffin (Colapinto), and got him today," said Watanabe. "That was probably the most excited I've ever been in a heat. Cole (Houshmand) is another great surfer and then Kolohe (Andino) is one of my idols. To surf against him was amazing. There's still a few events left, but to make a Final again feels really good."
Pictured: Bella Kenworthy (USA) powered through an event once more with back-to-back runner-up results. Credit: © WSL / Nichols
Women's runner-up, Kenworthy, surged through Finals Day competition once again en route to earning back-to-back QS Finals. The San Clemente competitor charged through the likes of local competitor Maddie Storrer (USA) before having to overcome yet another local, one of Santa Cruz's best talents, Autumn Hays. Now, the 15-year-old looks to learn heading into the final events of the 2022/23 season with plenty of momentum.
"I'm excited to get two Finals in a row and surf well," said Kenworthy. "This was a great experience and I'm so happy to get to surf these amazing waves. Getting to surf against Zoe (Benedetto) was insane, and hopefully I get one spot better next time with all the mistakes I'm learning from."
Notable Finishes for Semifinalists Autumn Hays, Havanna Cabrero, Cole Houshmand, and Ian Crane
Pictured: (Clockwise L to R) Autumn Hays (USA), Ian Crane (USA), Cole Houshmand (USA), and Havanna Cabrero (PRI) all showed glimpses of their potential heading toward Semifinal finishes. Credit: © WSL / Nichols Autumn Hays’ (USA) performance gave Santa Cruz plenty to cheer about throughout her event run, ending with a Semifinal appearance. Santa Cruz’s own buzzer-beating effort fell just shy of the requirement needed to overtake eventual runner-up Kenworthy, after Hays’ impressive Quarterfinal showing over Malibu, California’s, Talia Swindal (USA). Puerto Rico’s Havanna Cabrero turned in a brilliant event showing, matching her career-best result of a Semifinal, in the cold waters of Santa Cruz as she now prepares for the Challenger Series conclusion. Cole Houshmand’s (USA) impressive start to Finals Day over reigning North America QS Regional Champion Michael Dunphy (USA) couldn’t be replicated in his affair against eventual runner-up, Watanabe. Now, Houshmand, Dunphy, and Cabrero prepare for the epic, Challenger Series conclusion in Haleiwa beginning November 26 – December 7 with some momentum. Santa Cruz’s presence was felt as Ian Crane’s pushed himself against the town’s own Sam Coffey (USA), posting an 8.33 to overtake the lead. But, Crane couldn’t overcome the powerhouse of eventual winner Andino in his ferocious display. The North America Qualifying Series will return to action in January of 2023 to continue the 2022/23 season.
O'Neill Cold Water Classic Men's Final Results:
1 - Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.86 1,000 points
2 - Taro Watanabe (USA) 14.70 800 points
O'Neill Cold Water Classic Women's Final Results:
1 - Zoe Benedetto (USA) 14.83 1,000 points
2 - Bella Kenworthy (USA) 12.74 800 points
O'Neill Cold Water Classic Men's Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Taro Watanabe (USA) 14.73 DEF. Cole Houshmand (USA) 12.00
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 17.77 DEF. Ian Crane (USA) 12.14
O'Neill Cold Water Classic Women's Semifinal Results:
Heat 1: Zoe Benedetto (USA) 14.83 DEF. Havanna Cabrero (PRI) 11.90
Heat 2: Bella Kenworthy (USA) 13.93 DEF. Autumn Hays (USA) 13.77
O'Neill Cold Water Classic Men's Quarterfinal Results:
Heat 1: Cole Houshmand (USA) 15.67 DEF. Michael Dunphy (USA) 10.77
Heat 2: Taro Watanabe (USA) 15.57 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 14.84
Heat 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) 16.10 DEF. Shaun Burns (USA) 14.20
Heat 4: Ian Crane (USA) 15.00 DEF. Sam Coffey (USA) 13.50
O'Neill Cold Water Classic Women's Quarterfinal Results:
Heat 1: Zoe Benedetto (USA) 11.24 DEF. Mia McLeish (USA) 10.26
Heat 2: Havanna Cabrero (PRI) 12.53 DEF. Ella McCaffray (USA) 10.93
Heat 3: Autumn Hays (USA) 13.67 DEF. Talia Swindal (USA) 13.60
Heat 4: Bella Kenworthy (USA) 13.17 DEF. Maddie Storrer (USA) 9.80
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