Wilkinson, who is currently competing on his rookie year on the ASP World Tour, ventured to the O’Neill Cold Water Classic California in search of the valuable ratings points on offer at the ASP Prime event to contribute to his ASP World Ranking.
The progressive goofy-footer launched out to a quick start in his bout against the young Hawaiian, blasting a solid 7 point ride. Benson quickly matched the Aussie’s score, but Wilkinson notched a backup score of 6.67, to take out the win after a week of impressive backhand surfing at Steamer Lane.
“I’m so stoked, I haven’t won a contest in a long time,” Wilkinson said. “It’s been a long day, but I guess when it’s cold like this I guess you don’t get too buggered. I kept enough energy for the final and just got over the edge, so I’m stoked. I love surfing on my backhand and have always felt I’m stronger backside, I’m just stoked to have won this contest.”
Wilkinson, who is currently sitting in the No. 27 position on the ASP Dream Tour, was elated to win the O’Neill Cold Water Classic California, which will substantially boost his ASP World Ranking.
“This is definitely a good result for my World Ranking going into the rest of the year,” Wilkinson said. “I’m towards the back of the ratings on the World Tour and I was getting a little bit worried about the end of the year and I don’t know, I’m definitely stoked with this.”
Wilkinson will also carry the confidence from his massive win this week to the upcoming Rip Curl Pro Search Puerto Rico, where he will return to battle in elite ASP World Tour competition.
“This win is definitely good for the confidence,” Wilkinson said. “It’s the first time I’ve won in ages and it’s got me on a high so hopefully I can keep the ball going and make some heats in Puerto Rico.”
Benson was another young talent to shine on his backhand at Steamer Lane. The lightning-fast goofy-footer eliminated and impressive list of names including 2009 O’Neill Cold Water Classic Champion Nathan Yeomans (San Clemente, CA), 29, prodigy Kolohe Andino (San Clemente, CA), 16, and Australian Yadin Nicol (Margaret River, AUS), 24, before falling to Wilkinson in the final.
“That was kind of a tough heat for me,” Benson said. “I just couldn’t find a second wave and it cost me. It’s okay. I’m stoked. It’s a good result for me. I just came off of an injury, so I’m really happy that I made the final.”
Nat Young (Santa Cruz, CA), 19, who was a standout throughout the O’Neill Cold Water Classic California, detonated the day’s highest heat-total of 15.36 out of 20 in his Quarterfinals matchup, but was unable to find a rhythm in his wave-starved Semifinals heat against Matt Wilkinson at his local break of Steamer Lane and finished equal 3rd overall.
“The waves were terrible and I fell on all of my waves,” Young said. “I’m pretty bummed. It’s a good result, but I just wish the waves were a little better.”
Billy Stairmand (Raglan, NZL), 21, snagged the day’s highest single-wave score of an 8.17 out of 10 with a variety of committed forehand fins-free turns and powerful rail-carves in his Quarterfinal heat victory, but earned an interference in the opening seconds of his Semifinals bout and was unable to recover. Stairmand finished equal 3rd overall.
“The conditions went pretty much flat and the tide has dropped out,” Stairmand said. “I was pretty unlucky to get an interference at the start of that heat, but congratulations to Tonino (Benson) he was ripping.”
The impressive result posted by the young Kiwi will substantially help his cause towards his ASP World Ranking.
“Getting 3rd here is better than my win at the 6-Star,” Stairmand said. “It’s good to win a bit of money to help with the travel as well.”
Shaun Cansdell (AUS), 27, who finished equal 25th in the O’Neill Cold Water Classic California, took top honors in the O’Neill Cold Water Classic Series to win the $50,000 prize purse for finishing first in the five-event series after Dion Atkinson failed to advance out of his Round of 16 heat this morning and was at a loss for words after winning the additional prize money.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Cansdell said. “I’m really stoked to have ended up winning the Cold Water Series. I’m at a loss for words.”
O’Neill Cold Water Classic California Final Result:
1 – Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.67
2 – Tonino Benson (HAW) 12.53