BIELMANN / YOURSURFSHOT.COM
Kauai's Evan Valiere pocketed $75,000 after listening to Bob Marley's music during his Xcel Pro victory yesterday at Sunset Beach.
Valiere stirs it up to capture Xcel Pro
Jammin' himself into a late, high-scoring barrel ride and along with Bob Marley, Kauai's Evan Valiere scored his first major professional victory at the Xcel Pro Presented by No Fear yesterday.
The 22-year-old from Kalihiwai said he had a virtual concert of the reggae icon's tunes playing in his head during the action-packed final of the 4-star, $75,000 World Qualifying Series event at Sunset Beach.
The music helped him stay relaxed throughout and find the set wave coming off Sunset Point with only 6 minutes remaining in the four-man, half-hour final.
Valiere managed to successfully negotiate his way on his backhand through the tubing section of
the wave. He received an 8.83 (out of 10 maximum) score that allowed him to overtake the lead and, soon after, seal the biggest result of his career.
"You just kind of have to seek the waves out (at Sunset Beach), and be all over the place," said Valiere, who picked up $10,000 with the victory. "They come wide, they come deep -- so you just gotta get the right ones.
"I didn't know what (the wave) was going to do. I just tried to hang high when I was dropping in, and just shoot it. I made it happen, but I was also feeling good inside, so it was a lot more easy. Good music, good vibe."
Celebrating its 23rd edition and representing the kickoff of the competitive North Shore surf season, the Xcel was a three-day contest that started with an international field of 132 surfers.
Waves were in the 6- to 14-foot-face range yesterday, a bit smaller than the first two days of competition about a week ago, but cleaner.
As a big WQS contest, the Xcel allows competitors the chance to gain valuable ratings points for higher seeding in future series events and potential spots on the elite World Championship Tour, reserved for the world's top 45 surfers.
Though he hadn't previously made any real plans to pursue the WQS full-time, Valiere said that his Xcel victory would likely make him reconsider.
"This absolutely changes my career," Valiere said. "The list of past event winners is really amazing, and I'm really happy to be up here."
In a final that saw all four surfers secure at least one high score, Valiere came away with the victory after receiving an overall heat total of 15.83 for his top two waves.
Gavin Beschen -- the 2001 Xcel Pro champion -- finished in second place with 15.50. Participating in his first Hawaii contest, Michel Bourez (13.33) of Tahiti placed third, and Sunset Beach's Makua Rothman (13.23) took fourth.
Valiere initially secured the early lead with a 7.00 ride, but was quickly overtaken by Beschen. Beschen nabbed the next two waves -- and solid scores of 7.50 and 8.00 -- and already had what would turn out to be his final tally of 15.50 with only a third of the heat completed.
"Everyone comes here (ready) to surf," said the 30-year-old Beschen, who is originally from California, but also has a house near Sunset Beach. "I got a lot of respect for everyone here. It helps a lot to have the good locals teach you the wave, and spend a lot of time in the water."
Bourez was a standout throughout the contest, and delivered the highest individual-wave score of the final after getting a 9.93 for a barrel ride of his own and several hard carves on a wave 20 minutes in.
"My first contest in Hawaii, and to make the final -- I'm proud," Bourez, 20, said. "It's pretty cool that everyone likes my surfing, and I really appreciate it."
Rothman also followed with a strong ride (7.90) 2 minutes later.
At that point he, Bourez and Valiere each needed one more high score to potentially pass Beschen. But it was only Valiere who actually managed to get it, adding his 8.83 score to the earlier 7.00.