November 03, 2009

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 Terukina1985 - Denton Miyamura1986 - Hans Hedemann1987 - Ronnie Burns1988 - Michael Ho1989 - Richard Schmidt1990 - Michael Ho1991 - Michael Ho1992 - Sunny Garcia1993 - Kaipo Jaquias1994 - Derek Ho1995 - Kaipo Jaquias1996 - Michael Ho1997 - Andy Irons1998 - Pancho Sullivan1999 - Bruce Irons2000 - Pancho Sullivan2001 - Gavin Beschen2002 - Fred Pattachia2003 - Pancho Sullivan2004 - Fred Pattachia2005 - Ian Walsh2006 - Evan Valiere2007 - Joel Centeio2008 - Pancho Sullivan

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