Waialua's Patacchia Jr. wins first pro surf meet
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Years of anticipated surfing excellence were finally fulfilled for Fred Patacchia Jr. in the Xcel Pro yesterday.
Bernie Baker Special to The Advertiser
Fred Patacchia Jr., 20, won the Xcel Pro yesterday in 3- to 6-foot waves at Sunset Beach.
Bernie Baker Special to The Advertiser
"It's a real relief because a lot of people do have a lot of expectations for me," he said. "This is just one way for me to prove it."
Oh, by the way, Patacchia is only 20.
Ever since his days at Waialua High, Patacchia has appeared destined for stardom. He is a former amateur national champion, and signed a lucrative professional contract with Quiksilver while he was still a high school senior.
He admittedly struggled during his first two years as a pro surfer, but that all changed yesterday.
"To know I still have the ability to win events is a great feeling," Patacchia said.
Yesterday, he proved his worth against a field that included most of Hawai'i's top professional surfers.
In the four-man final, Patacchia blended patience with persistence to prevail over three older competitors, also from Hawai'i: Kalani Robb placed second, Shawn Sutton third and Marcus Hickman fourth.
Each surfer could catch up to 15 waves, but only the best two would count toward his final score.
Patacchia caught just four waves in 35 minutes, but his top two received scores of 9.0 (out of 10) and 7.5 for a total of 16.5.
His strategy was simple stay away from the other surfers and wait for the best waves.
"I knew all the guys in the final were experienced," he said. "I figured I had to stay outside of them to get my waves."
Patacchia waited nearly 20 minutes before catching his first wave. But in the final 15 minutes, he unleashed several spectacular maneuvers to secure the victory.
His most impressive move which resulted in the 9.0 score came late in the heat when he successfully rode through the barreling section of a 5-foot wave.
"I couldn't really see much to tell you the truth," he said of that ride. "I was holding on for dear life."
Patacchia earned $4,000 for the victory. He is competing on surfing's World Qualifying Series, and hopes to advance to the elite World Championship Tour by 2004.
"I feel like Sunset (Beach) is the proving ground," he said. "If you can win here, you're doing all right. This win here really gives me a lot of confidence."
Robb, who is the No. 11-ranked surfer in the world, caught just three waves in the final, with his top two receiving a total score of 13.6.
"It was a bummer there were no waves," he said. "It seemed like I was out there forever just sitting and waiting. So to get second after going through that, I feel pretty good."
Sutton placed third, but still wound up winning the 2002 Hawaiian Pro-Am Circuit championship. The HPAC consisted of three events on O'ahu this year.
"To come out on top against all the Hawai'i pros is unbelievable," Sutton said. "I'm shocked I got it actually."
Hickman, who lives on Sunset Beach, managed to catch just two waves in the final, although one received a score of 8.0.
His appearance in the final was impressive considering he was an unseeded surfer and had to compete from the first round (the top seeded surfers received byes into the third round).
In a longboard "expression session" held before yesterday's final, Bonga Perkins of Hale'iwa prevailed over a six-man field of invited Hawai'i competitors.
The Xcel Pro is considered the kickoff event for the famous North Shore surf season.
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing will begin Tuesday with the Hawaiian Pro at Hale'iwa Ali'i Beach. The top performers in the Xcel Pro earned spots in the Triple Crown of Surfing.
1, Fred Patacchia Jr. (Hawai'i), $4,000. 2, Kalani Robb (Hawai'i), $2,000. 3, Shawn Sutton (Hawai'i), $1,500. 4, Marcus Hickman (Hawai'i), $1,300. 5 (tie), Jason Bogle (Hawai'i) and Paul Paterson (Australia). 7 (tie), Mikala Jones (Hawai'i) and Doug Silva (Hawai'i). 9 (tie), Myles Padaca (Hawai'i), Pancho Sullivan (Hawai'i), Gavin Beschen (Hawai'i) and Kawika Stillwell (Hawai'i). 13 (tie), Gavin Kennelly (Hawai'i), Roy Powers (Hawai'i), Jonah Morgan (Hawai'i) and Derek Ho (Hawai'i).
Longboard Expression Session
1, Bonga Perkins, $500. 2, Kanoa Dahlin, $300. 3, Rusty Keaulana, $200. 4, Dino Miranda. 5, Lance Ho'okano. 6, Keegan Edwards.