Thursday, November 11, 1999
Xcel at Sunset
Bruce Irons wins the Xcel Pro;By Greg Ambrose
two others from Kauai were in the final
Special to the Star-Bulletin
The ocean roused itself from its summer slumber and made an irrefutable pronouncement at Sunset Beach yesterday: Kauai boys rule.
A trio of Kauai surfers made it to yesterday's final heat of the Rusty Xcel Pro, along with Australian Nicky Wood, the last non-islander remaining in a huge field of competitors from around the world.
The 6- to 10-foot waves that graced this first event of the winter surf contest season didn't match the epic peaks of past Xcel Pros. But compared to the dismal swells that have slopped ashore the past several weeks, the surf was heaven-sent.
A late north-northwest swell sent waves booming in from Sunset Point and across to the middle section, where they stood up and pitched over in alluring tubes.
Bruce Irons took full advantage of the barrels, pulling in time after time for high scores.
Wood, trying to recapture the form that made him the youngest surfer to win a world professional contest at age 16 in the mid-80s, relied on strong turns and excellent wave judgment.
Braden Dias and Jesse Merle-Jones used their backside attacks to power off the bottom vertically up the waves and blast the tops off the waves, gouging out huge fountains of spray.
"I grew up with these guys," said Irons. "Jesse lives next door to me, and we always surf and go on trips with Braden. I'm stoked to have my friends out there, and to see my friends making it."
Irons was a wave magnet, attracting all the best peaks. After pulling into three barrels early in the final heat and earning a nearly perfect 9.5 score for one especially deep tube ride, it seemed that Irons had a slam dunk for the final.
But Wood countered with a 9.2 barrel of his own, and Dias nearly matched that with his own backside tube ride.
But Irons' early lead was too much to overcome, and when the heat ended, he had a victory to match his older brother Andy's win in the 1997 Xcel Pro, and a $4,000 prize. Wood finished second, Dias third and Merle-Jones fourth.
Irons next will take on the Van's G-Shock Triple Crown of Surfing, the grand finale of the world surfing tour, which starts tomorrow at Haleiwa Beach.