The world’s coldest professional surfing contest returns to Scotland in spring 2008. O’Neill has confirmed that the Highland Open, its signature event, will be staged on Scotland’s frigid North Shore for the third year running. O’Neill’s first two pioneering contests have revolutionised European surfing, putting the icy barrels of Scotland on the world surfing map, but this April’s event looks set to be even bigger and better than its predecessors.

The O’Neill Highland Open by Swatch is the must-see surfing contest in Europe, and no wonder. It’s a contest with a difference: it’s run by surfers, for surfers, at the world-class breaks that lie along Scotland’s North Shore. It’s based at the legendary reef of Thurso East, where the water temperature is a mind-and-body numbing 4 degrees Celsius. At 59 degrees north, Thurso East is more hospitable to polar bears than humans, but for a growing number of top-quality surfers, the cold is an irrelevance. What matters is the awesome quality of the waves delivered by Arctic swells onto Thurso’s reef – long, clean, immense right-handers that rival the perfection of Hawaii’s own, rather warmer North Shore.

Here, in Scotland, boardshorts aren’t an option. Only the serious need apply.

The O’Neill Highland Open by Swatch is a mobile event, meaning that the best waves from a total of six venues along Scotland’s North Shore are accessible. If necessary, the contest will re-locate from its base at Thurso to other top quality breaks such as Brims Ness, Murkle West, Nothing Left, Point of Ness and Strathy. The event is also a top-graded World Qualifying Series (WQS) event: at Prime 6-stars, and with a prize purse of US$135,000, the O’Neill Highland Openby Swatch will draw the serious contenders on the WQS. The quality of surfing will be unrivalled in Britain for 2008, as the likes of Britain’s own Russell Winter – the winner in 2006 – and the 2007 victor, Australian Nathan Hedge, vie with Brazilians, Hawaiians, South Africans and Californians – not to mention a guaranteed Scottish wildcard entry – to wield the coveted Highland Open sword.

There’s more: the first and second-placed surfers win a berth on the O’Neill The Mission France 2008. This unique, fully mobile event explores the French coast from Brittany to the Basque Country, with options for a detour to the Mediterranean Sea. Ten of the world’s best surfers are invited on The Mission. They judge each other – and the winner takes home US$25,000.

O’Neill is also 100% committed to continuing the company’s other mission, one that has been a constant since its formation over 50 years ago: to raise ecological awareness and safeguard the environment. For the 2008 Highland Open, O’Neill welcomes Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) as one the key event partners.

The Highland Open is supported by EventScotland, the national organisation for sports and cultural events. Paul Bush, Chief Operating Officer of EventScotland said: “With its dramatic coastline, the North of Scotland is recognised as one of the finest surfing destinations in Northern Europe and places Thurso on the world surfing map, alongside the likes of Australia and Hawaii.”

The O’Neill Highland Open runs from 23 to 30 April. It’s not for the faint-hearted – but it is the place where you’ll see the best surfing in Britain this year.


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