For World’s Coldest Surf Competitions, Surfers Take on Frigid Swells in New Zealand, Scotland

By Tetsuhiko Endo; Photograph courtesy Cory Scott, O'Neill

When you hear the term “surfing competition” what images come to mind? California, palm trees, tropical blue water, guys with blonde hair who begin every sentence with “dude…”? That’s pretty spot on. However, wetsuit company O’Neill works on a slightly different paradigm.

Every year they run the O'Neill Cold Water Classic Series. It features the most southerly competition in the world in Gisborn, New Zealand, the most northerly in Thurso, Scotland, and the most flannel-shirted in Santa Cruz. Last week, Australian Adam Melling took home top honors in New Zealand, beating out a cadre of two of his countrymen and one Brazilian—proving that warm water surfers can adapt to colder temperatures if they have the right motivation ($20,000 and the trophy, a hand-carved Maori weapon called a Tewhatewha).

Although the water in New Zealand was only 68 degrees, necessitating no more than a three millimeter wet suit, the surfers will have to bring their thickest neoprene to Scotland where a cold winter has left the water temps hovering at a frigid 45 degrees. That means five millimeters covering your entire body—feet, hands, and even head. It's worth it though: the prize is a medieval sword, a la William Wallace. If you want to watch the frigid action, tune in to the web cast of the Scotland leg April 13th through the 19th.


  1. Erric
    April 8, 2011, 2:20 am

    the term “surfing competition” brings sharks to mind.
    in some surfing movies, it usually happened that sharks always hiding in the waves, tag after the surfer and waiting for a chance to attack the surfer……

  2. Kosherica Kosher Vacations
    April 8, 2011, 2:46 pm

    Speaking of sharks, have you heard about that new movie coming out called “Soul Surfer” about that 21-year-old girl who lost her left arm in 2003 and still kept surfing? I’d be so traumatized after an experience like that. I give major props to all the dedicated “soul surfers” out there who can endure the intensity the ocean and the waves can sometimes bring. I only wish I had your courage.

  3. Bed and breakfast Great Yarmouth
    April 11, 2011, 6:15 pm

    I miss surfing, cant wait to visit Australia next month

  4. vibram five fingers
    April 13, 2011, 6:17 am

    That’s pretty spot on

  5. longchamp
    July 21, 2011, 10:54 pm

    beautiful but dangerous travelling
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  8. disney-credit-card
    October 25, 2011, 9:32 am

    This is enlightening. Here I thought that only in California where surfers surf.

  9. oneill superfreaks
    December 21, 2011, 1:01 pm

    Time to get out the oneill superfreaks ! 45 degrees is cold !

  10. Surf Travel in New Zealand
    December 21, 2011, 2:49 pm

    It’s fun to rent a surf camper van when exploring the coast of New Zealand!

  11. Online Cheap Shopping
    December 31, 2011, 12:18 pm

    That was pretty cool. The stunt is so amasing.

  12. Jezreel Ricafort
    December 31, 2011, 12:20 pm

    Surfing is consider good sport but not easy to do, but how about if together with a stunt. This guy must be so expert.

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