For it’s second year in the Highlands, the O’Neill Highland Open has been upgraded to a six star WQS competition making it the biggest professional Surfing event to be staged in the UK. From April 23rd through to April 30th, 144 of the worlds top professional surfers will compete at the legendary Thurso East reef break.
The success of last year’s eight-day Highland Open at Thurso East and nearby Brim Ness has now established the event on the surfing circuit, resulting in an increase in the prize money from £51,400 to £64,300.
The host wave for the Highland Open is the fabled Thurso East. Lying at 59° degrees north, Thurso will be the most Northern wave spot on the planet to host a WQS event. Likened by some to Nias in Sumatra, Thurso East is one of the most consistent spots in the British Isles, renowned for dishing up long winding right-hand tubes that spin off the flat, kelp covered reef.
But scoring Scotland’s prize wave comes at a cost; water temperatures are far from tropical, barely rising above a bone-chilling 8 – 10°C. Combine with this huge sea lions, peaty-brown waters and a beautifully rugged backdrop; the Highland Open is set to be one of the most unique stops ever on the WQS tour.
If Thurso fails to turn it on for the event, the contest organizers have the option to go mobile and travel the short distance to alternate swell magnets. Brim Ness, which means ‘Surf Point’ in Nordic, is just one option that is renowned for dishing up overhead waves when Thurso is flat.
O’Neill Europe began started hosting WQS events in off-the-beaten track locations back in 2000 when they staged the first ever professional surfing contest in Nias, Sumatra with the ‘Deep Jungle Open’. A year on, in 2001, O’Neill introduced professional surfing to the Island paradise of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and enjoyed five successive years of perfect, tropical waves at the ‘Deep Blue Open’.
The Highland Open is simply another chapter in O’Neill’s unwavering commitment to providing perfect and diverse locations for the world’s best surfers to prove their worth.