CAPITOLA — It can’t be often that a surfer turns down an invitation from a contest director because he has to honor his commitment to work on a shrimp boat in the south of Australia.
But as Shane Skelton discovered this fall, that’s what sometimes happens when the event features unsponsored competitors trying to balance the pursuit of their professional surfing dreams with the pursuit of putting food on the table.
Yet those are exactly the kind of surfers Skelton and local surf apparel company O’Neill were looking for when they created the Coldwater Invitational.
“We’re trying to create an underdog story,” said Skelton, an O’Neill marketing and team manager. “We want to show all the surfers out there who struggle, sleep on couches, work construction and wait tables so they can surf their contests.”
A year after hosting many of the best, and best-paid, surfers in the world as an Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour stop, the Coldwater will cater to the other side of the competitive surfing spectrum. It will employ an innovative contest format that features only surfers without contracts to compete in the 2014 season and award the winner a year of sponsorship (worth $50.000) to chase a spot on the world tour.