North Shore season starts with Xcel Pro at Sunset Beach
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Some of the world's best surfers will get a chance to excel in some of the world's best waves when the Xcel Pro gets underway this week.
What: Professional surfing contest on World Qualifying Series (WQS) Where: Sunset Beach, O'ahu When: Best three days between tomorrow and Nov. 10 Prize purse: $20,000 At stake: Points to help surfers qualify for the 2003 World Championship Tour; points to earn spots in the 2002 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Daily status: 596-7873
What: Professional surfing contest on World Qualifying Series (WQS)
Where: Sunset Beach, O'ahu
When: Best three days between tomorrow and Nov. 10
Prize purse: $20,000
At stake: Points to help surfers qualify for the 2003 World Championship Tour; points to earn spots in the 2002 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing
Daily status: 596-7873
More than 100 surfers will compete in the contest that is also considered the kickoff for the famous North Shore winter season (the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing will follow the Xcel Pro). While the field includes several California entries and a handful of international surfers, most of the contestants are from Hawai'i.
"This is more of a local event," said Sunset Beach surfer Arnold Dowling. "The Triple Crown contests are harder to get (entry) into because it's mostly for the world tour guys. This contest gives the locals a chance to get recognized."
Dowling is already being recognized.
His photograph is being used on the promotional posters and T-shirts for this year's Xcel Pro.
"That puts a little more pressure on me," he said. "But I love being a part of this contest. It's the first contest of the season, and so everybody's real excited."
Dowling represents one extreme among the vast array of contestants in the Xcel Pro. He is 36 and works as a property manager on the North Shore.
"This is the only time of year I enter contests," he said. "The rest of the year I work and get ready for the North Shore season."
At the other extreme is Nathan Carroll, a 17-year-old home-school senior who resides at Sunset Beach.
"For me, it's an opportunity to surf against the best guys in the world and see what I'll be going up against in the future," he said.
Carroll is on the Big Island this weekend competing against his peers in a scholastic surfing contest. In the Xcel Pro, he will be considered an underdog as one of the youngest surfers in the field.
"It doesn't matter who I go up against, I always want to win," he said. "The (pro) events are so much harder, but that's why I look forward to it. I know it's helping my future no matter how I do."
The rest of the field includes current top-ranked professionals (Sunny Garcia and Kalani Robb), former top-ranked pros (Derek Ho and Kaipo Jaquias), high school standouts (Kekoa Bacalso and T.J. Barron) and one female (four-time women's world champ Layne Beachley of Australia).
"Each year, there's a new group of kids that deserve a spot in the contest," said Xcel owner Ed D'Ascoli. "But at the same time, the older guys still deserve to be in it, too. It's a good mix that we end up with."
The advantage for many of the Hawai'i surfers is experience in the tricky Sunset Beach lineup. The past two Xcel Pro champs were North Shore surfers: Gavin Beschen (2001) and Pancho Sullivan (2000).
"It helps a lot to know the wave," Dowling said. "But so much of it is luck, too. You just have to go out and try your best no matter what the conditions are."
The contest is part of surfing's World Qualifying Series, and the top performers will earn points toward qualifying for next year's elite World Championship Tour. The top performers in the Xcel Pro will also earn spots in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 12.