This year's Xcel Pro was blessed with classic 8-12 foot surf through out the three days of competition. At times the lineup was so angry and chaotic, guys couldn't even catch a single wave in their 22-minute heats. That's why I rode a 7'5" for most of the event, and advanced through to the Quarterfinals just by catching waves. Sunset Beach makes you work, and don't give anyone any free rides. Former ASP World Champions Derek Ho, Sunny Garcia, and Andy Irons were all victims of the Sunset warble, and didn't make it past the third round. The guys advancing were either really lucky, or the few who put some sort of time in out there.

Pancho Sullivan and Sunset Beach are best friends. In free surfs and contests at Sunset, Pancho is the guy to beat. His track record for winning the Xcel Pro is tied with Michael Ho's four victories, and Panch' was aiming to top that with a legendary fifth victory. It's clear that Pancho Sullivan clocks in more time, and knows Sunset better than anyone right now. He's just in-tune with the whole surging, warbled playing field out there. Each heat he surfed, his average wave scores were in the 8's and 9's, and he caught more good waves than anyone in any heat. In the Final he looked similar, even while up against Myles Padaca, Shane Beschen, and Hank Gaskell. In my eyes, Pancho clearly won, but even after being carried up the beach, he was rewarded with second place! Unsponsored Hank Maui surfer Gaskell torqued some razor sharp turns and I guess the judges liked his 2 razor-move waves more than Pancho's 3-to-4 power-move waves. Hmmm. .. Well it's hard to judge with no computer scoring at a low-budget 2 star WQS, but the contest directors and faculty all made the best with what they had, and it turned out to be a great event nonetheless. I'm really happy for Hank taking the win because I know he needed the money, and I'm sure Pancho will win the Xcel Pro Sunset Beach many more times.

Aside from that, this past week on the North Shore was all about rapid change. Conditions went from sunny, glassy and teeny tiny, to big and unruly almost overnight. The beginning of the week we were cave diving at Sharks Cove (check the video here), and by the end of the week we were surfing 12-foot bombers. That's why you need to be able to adapt to anything here, mainly because what each day calls for is constantly up in the air. --Flynn Novak

For more photos of the event, click here.

1 - Hank Gaskell (HAW) 2 - Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 3 - Myles Padaca (HAW) 4 - Shane Beschen (HAW)

1984 - Kerry Terukina 1985 - Denton Miyamura 1986 - Hans Hedemann 1987 - Ronnie Burns 1988 - Michael Ho 1989 - Richard Schmidt 1990 - Michael Ho 1991 - Michael Ho 1992 - Sunny Garcia 1993 - Kaipo Jaquias 1994 - Derek Ho 1995 - Kaipo Jaquias 1996 - Michael Ho 1997 - Andy Irons 1998 - Pancho Sullivan 1999 - Bruce Irons 2000 - Pancho Sullivan 2001 - Gavin Beschen 2002 - Fred Pattachia 2003 - Pancho Sullivan 2004 - Fred Pattachia 2005 - Ian Walsh 2006 - Evan Valiere 2007 - Joel Centeio 2008 - Pancho Sullivan

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.