No Stranger to Steamer Lane

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A swell rolled in from the northwest last Wednesday morning as 16 unsponsored surfers paddled out at Steamer Lane for the 2014 O’Neill Coldwater Classic Invitational. Among the contestants was local product Shaun Burns. Burns, 22, was competing in the contest for the second year in a row, this time with his sights set on a victory in Santa Cruz’s biggest surf competition.

Burns grew up on the Westside, just down the street from the lane. This is where he matured as a young surfer. This is his home break.

“My dad’s a really big surfer so he got me on a surfboard before I could walk,” Burns said. “I was kind of scared of [Steamer Lane] when I was younger so I started at Cowell’s just on a longboard. I worked my way up to Indicators and I started surfing the lane at about 10 or 11, so now I’ve been surfing it for 10 or 11 years.”

Burns was slated for the third heat in the opening round Wednesday and he appeared at home in the chest high break that morning. Burns posted a 13.60 score for the heat, edging out his competitor Jack Boyes of Huntington Beach, California.

“The guys in this competition know how to surf a wave really well, but the lane is a tricky wave. Since I’ve surfed it so much, it definitely gives me the upper hand,” Burns said before the competition.

Burns spent the rest of the competition showing off his expertise in the water, climbing his way through the tournament bracket and making it all the way to the final round where he would square off against veteran surfer Nate Yeomans.

Yeomans, 33, like Burns, is no stranger to Steamer Lane, he catapulted his early surfing career by winning the Coldwater Classic back in 2009, only to fall short on his pro surfing dreams the next year when he was cut from the World Championship Tour midway through the 2010 season.

The final started off well for Burns who posted a score of 7.00 with his first ride as he landed an impressive air reverse to wow the judges. But after a few miscues by Burns on his next couple of waves, Yeomans capitalized on his second ride of the heat, cutting vertical turns all over the lip of what looked to be the best wave of the final, earning a score of 8.5 and giving him a sizable lead over Burns.

Just after Yeomans’ second wave, officials put the final on hold as the fog had become too dense for judges to see the action. The two competitors were put on hold for about 35 minutes when visibility finally improved enough to resume the heat. Unfortunately, during the delay period as the fog dissipated so too did the remnants of the northwest swell that had rolled in the previous day, flattening out the wave to knee-high at best.

“[It’s better at] head-high or a little bit overhead because it has power for me to be able to not really struggle on the waves and give me a push to do turns and stuff like that,” said Burns before the final.

As the action finally resumed Burns was already in a pretty big hole as Yeomans’ 8.5 score just before the hold was good enough to give him a comfortable lead with a two wave total of 15.00. With 25 minutes to go Burns had plenty of time to post a big score and catch up but the small and sporadic waves gave him little opportunity to do so and Yeomans’ 15.00 proved more than enough to take home the victory over Burns who finished with a score of 12.83.

Burns was humble in his loss, celebrating briefly with Yeomans after the event. He released a statement on Facebook following the event thanking O’Neill and his supporters in Santa Cruz.

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“Had a very exciting time at this year’s ‎O’Neill CWC. So happy to have made the final in the contest, that means the most to me. It was a big learning curve and I am looking forward to what’s next. Huge thanks to everyone for the support and O’Neill for the invite,” he said on Facebook after the event.

Burns, a senior in environmental management at Cal Poly, says he plans to pursue his dreams of professional surfing regardless of the result in this contest.

“I’ve always really wanted to be a professional surfer and I always told myself I’d at least give myself a shot at it,” said Burns. “I’m looking forward to traveling the world and hopefully becoming a professional surfer, but if that never happens I’ll have that degree in environmental management.”

For his efforts, Yeomans will receive a one-year sponsorship from O’Neill valued at $50,000 that  pays for gear, travel expenses and contest fees to go after a spot on the ASP World Championship Tour.

An aging surfer by today’s standards, Yeomans prolonged his surfing dreams a bit longer as the O’Neill sponsorship will allow him to compete next year on the professional circuit where he says he otherwise would not have been financially able.

“It’s frickin’ awesome. I can’t even believe it,” said Yeomans during a victory ceremony following the final. “I was doing job interviews before I came up here.”

Yeomans, 33, like Burns, is no stranger to Steamer Lane. He catapulted into his surfing career by winning the Coldwater Classic back in 2009, only to fall short of his professional surfing dreams the next year when he was cut from the World Championship Tour midway through the 2010 season.

The final started off well for Burns who posted a score of 7.00 for his first ride when he landed an impressive air reverse, wowing the judges. After a few miscues by Burns on his next couple of waves, Yeomans capitalized on his second ride of the heat, cutting vertical turns all over the lip of the best wave of the final. He earned a score of 8.5, giving him a sizable lead over Burns.

After Yeomans’ second wave, officials put the final on hold as the fog became too dense for judges to see the action. The two competitors were put on hold for about 35 minutes until visibility improved enough to resume the heat. Unfortunately, as the fog dissipated so did the remnants of the northwest swell that rolled in the previous day, flattening out the wave to knee-high at best.

“[It’s better at] head-high or a little bit overhead because it has the power for me to not struggle on the waves. It gives me a push to do turns and stuff like that,” Burns said before the final.

When the action resumed Burns was in a pretty big hole, as Yeomans’ 8.5 score gave him a comfortable lead with a two wave total of 15.00. With 25 minutes to go Burns had plenty of time to post a big score and catch up, but the small and sporadic waves gave him little opportunity to do so. Yeomans’ 15.00 proved more than enough to take home the victory over Burns, who finished with a score of 12.83.

Burns was humble in his loss, celebrating briefly with Yeomans after the event. He released a statement on Facebook following the event thanking O’Neill and his supporters in Santa Cruz.

“I had a very exciting time at this year’s ‎O’Neill CWC. So happy to have made the final in the contest, that means the most to me. It was a big learning curve and I am looking forward to what’s next. Huge thanks to everyone for the support and O’Neill for the invite,” he said on Facebook after the event.

Burns, a senior in environmental management at Cal Poly, said he plans to pursue his dreams of professional surfing regardless of the result in this contest.

“I’ve always wanted to be a professional surfer and I always told myself I’d at least give myself a shot at it,” Burns said. “I’m looking forward to traveling the world and hopefully becoming a professional surfer, but if that never happens I’ll have that degree in environmental management.”

Yeomans will receive a one-year sponsorship from O’Neill for his win, valued at $50,000 that pays for gear, travel expenses and contest fees for a spot on the Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour.

An aging surfer by today’s standards, Yeomans will prolong his surfing dreams with the O’Neill sponsorship, allowing him to compete next year on the professional circuit where he said he otherwise would not have been financially able.

“It’s frickin’ awesome. I can’t even believe it,” Yeomans said during a victory ceremony following the final. “I was doing job interviews before I came up here.”