COURTESY XCEL / BIELMANN SPL
Sunset Beach resident Raymond Reichle used a home-surf advantage to get out of the second round of the Xcel Pro yesterday.
Field of 132 open Xcel at Sunset
Now in its 24th year, the Xcel Pro presented by No Fear once again kicked off the renowned professional surfing season on Oahu's North Shore with its first day of competition yesterday at Sunset Beach.
Waves were in the 4- to 8-foot-face range and far from the biggest and best the revered break can dish out. But as a $75,000, 4-star World Qualifying Series event and with no significant increase in swell action expected for the next several days, the event's organizers and competitors were eager to hit the water.
"We looked at (yesterday's conditions) like a bird in hand," Xcel president Ed D'Ascoli said. "We wanted to get a day of competition under our belt, and we felt that these were real competitive conditions. It's smaller, but (allows for) real high-performance surfing."
The Xcel began with an international field of 132 surfers. The entire first round and eight heats of the second were completed.
COURTESY OF XCEL / BIELMANN SPL
Luke Walsh got deep in the barrel during the opening day of the Xcel Pro surf contest at Sunset Beach yesterday.
Even with the smaller surf, the Xcel could resume today if it continues to come in cleanly and from a favorable direction. Two more full days of competition are needed for the event, which has a waiting period that lasts through Nov. 10.
Sunset Beach resident and 2005 Xcel finalist Raymond Reichle was among the standouts yesterday, surfing for the first time in the second round and winning his heat with 14.27 points (out of 20 maximum) for his top two rides. Reichle's intimate knowledge of the break showed when he opened his scoring in the 22-minute, four-man heat with a 6.50 wave, and then backed that up with a 7.77 on his fourth and final ride after lining up deepest out at Sunset Point for much of the heat.
"I sat real deep, because while it's a longer wait sometimes, you can get a longer ride," Reichle, 21, said. "Sunset is a tricky wave from 1 foot to 15 feet (traditional Hawaii scale; approximately doubled for face value), and it pays to surf out here a lot. It's just like any other day for me. This is fun, and I hope it gets bigger."
In the next second-rounder, 18-year-old Dusty Payne of Maui was able to overcome his initial awe of competing against Hawaii surfing icon Derek Ho, who is more than twice his age, to defeat the former world and Xcel champion along with the two other surfers in the heat. Despite how he may have felt, Payne was active and on point for the entire 22 minutes, surfing a total of eight waves and totaling 12.94 points for his top pair.
Ho was in the runner-up position and poised to also qualify for the third round late in the heat. But Payne's fellow Valley Isle surfer, Luke Walsh, nabbed the transfer position and eliminated Ho from the competition with a late ride and a final combined score of 11.60 to Ho's 10.00.
"With someone like Derek Ho out there, I kinda wanted to follow him around to see what he did," said Payne, who lives in Lahaina. "It was tough out there, (waves breaking) all over the place, and I was just stoked to get through."
The result was better for another Hawaii surfing legend, as Sunny Garcia put together the highest combined score (16.50) of the first round. Garcia, 37, advanced to the Xcel's second day and will surf again in the 11th heat of the second round.