SANTA CRUZ -- While the ultimate thrill of the O'Neill Coldwater Classic at Steamer Lane probably occurs in the water, a different sense of excitement stirs up at the announcer's table.
"When you go live on the air, you are all in it together, and when the production team is working in sync, it feels really good," said Joe Turpel, one of the contest's announcers.
Along with Turpel, surfers Brad Gerlach, Ronnie Blakey, John Shimooka and Ryan Simmons will announce the O'Neill Coldwater Classic this year. The five will bring their collective experiences to the second to last stop on the World Tour, where there will be a $425,000 prize purse.
Simmons will work the beach, and Gerlach, Blakey and Shimooka will broadcast. Turpel will cover both areas.
While they're all broadcasting vets in the surf contest scene, Blakey said this year will mark a significant chapter in the world of carving waves. Blakey has been announcing surf contests for 12 years and has been calling World Championship Tour events for seven years.
"This is a special year with a number of legitimate contenders vying for the world title," said the Australian and former editor of Waves Magazine. "To watch these surfers competing at a new World Tour location under that kind of pressure is going to be incredibly exciting."
Blakey is unfamiliar with Steamer Lane, although he said he's heard a variety of stories about the surf spot to prepare him for the contest.
"This will be my first trip to Santa Cruz," Blakey said. "Everyone I ask says the town is great and the waves are fun."
While the sport has remained consistent throughout the years, Shimooka said technological advances have deeply impacted the contest circuit.
"I started when webcast in surfing was just an audio, and you had to let your mind imagine what the pros were doing on the wave," Shimooka said.
Throughout his 12 years of announcing, Shimooka said he's enjoyed witnessing the Internet's impact on the sport and overall accessibility to competitions.
"It's awesome to be bringing our sport to more people outside of those that were on the beach," Shimooka said.
While the commentators surely know their surfing statistics and jargon, they occasionally face a few hiccups during events. Turpel recalls working with Marc "Occy" Occhilupo at the Pipe Masters last year when the Australian fell over backwards in his chair in the middle of a heat.
"His headset flew off and I saw his feet flying through the air," said Turpel, who has been announcing surf contests for five years. "He hit a camera and somehow landed perfectly on his feet. We both laughed until we cried."
Turpel said working with a team of commentators is one of the most entertaining and rewarding parts of his surfing career.
"The Coldwater Classic is such a legendary event in surfing history," Turpel said. "I'm looking forward to hanging out in Santa Cruz with all the epic characters."
Follow Sentinel reporter Bonnie Horgos on Twitter: @bhorgos