Centeio rides wave of success
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Joel Centeio may not be at the top of the list of local surfers who can tame the famed North Shore waves, but that's exactly what he did late yesterday in the final round of the 24th annual Xcel Pro at Sunset Beach.
With only 2 minutes left in the event, Centeio made his final round count, scoring a lucky 7.77 that was good enough to secure his first pro win on the North Shore. The 24-year-old pocketed the $10,000 first-place check as well as put his name on a trophy at the four-star World Qualifying Series contest that serves as the annual kickoff to the renowned competition season on Oahu's North Shore.
Yesterday's victory also meant a No. 42 ranking on the WQS for the 24-year-old from Makakilo. This is the final event before the start of the Triple Crown of Surfing that begins Monday with the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa.
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COURTESY OF XCEL / BIELMANN-SPL
Joel Centeio of Makakilo won the 24th annual Xcel Pro yesterday at Sunset Beach.
After trailing for most of the 35-minute decider, Joel Centeio nabbed his final ride with only 2 minutes left, scoring a 7.77 that propelled him to the victory in the final of the 24th annual Xcel Pro at Sunset Beach yesterday.
The four-star World Qualifying Series contest serves as the annual kickoff to the renowned competition season on Oahu's North Shore.
Yesterday's victory was the first pro win on the North Shore for the 24-year-old from Makakilo and also earned him the $10,000 top prize and a No. 42 ranking on the WQS.
"This feels insane," Centeio said. "Look at the list of past winners -- they're all the best surfers in the world. This is a dream come true, and in front of all my family and friends. I'm psyched."
Waves for the last of three total Xcel competition days were only in the 4- to 7-foot-face range. But with two days remaining in the event's waiting period and no improvement forecast for today, organizers decided to finish yesterday.
Participating in his second career Xcel final, Centeio started out his 7.77 ride with two consecutive hard snaps off the top of the wave -- sending spray high and wide each time -- and ended it with a pair of cutback/rebound combinations. That score was added to an 8.33 (out of a maximum 10) he received after three hard carving maneuvers on the same wave at around the midpoint of the heat, and gave Centeio a winning total of 16.10 for his top two waves.
"My (extra board) caddy was telling me," said Centeio, explaining that he was "sort of" aware of the exact scoring late in the final. "But I knew I had to get something good because I only had that one 8-something (as a solid score)."
The North Shore's Mason Ho, son of Michael Ho and nephew of Derek Ho -- two of the most accomplished Hawaii surfers ever and former Xcel champs -- led most of the way in the four-man final, which featured three Hawaii surfers. But despite tallying a 6.73 for a clean barrel ride immediately after Centeio's final wave, the 19-year-old Ho fell short of joining his father and uncle on the Xcel winners' list and was forced to settle for second place with 12.73 total points.
It was Ho who had the flair for the late dramatics earlier in the day, as he twice used a ride in the final ticks to escape elimination and move on -- first during his fourth-round heat in the morning and then again in the semifinals.
"I surfed so many times today (four total heats), I was really stoked just to make the final," said Ho. And he admitted, the Xcel winners' list "was a big thought on my mind all day. I wanted another M. Ho up there, but maybe next year."
Fellow North Shore surfer Makua Rothman (11.17 total) placed third, while California's Alex Gray (9.43) took fourth.
Rothman is the son of Eddie Rothman, founder of Da Hui -- a group of local surfers considered enforcers in the crowded North Shore lineups that established a clothing company by the same name. Like Ho, Rothman started surfing at Sunset Beach not too long after he could walk and was also seeking his first pro win on the North Shore.
Instead, it was the soft-spoken Centeio who took the contest that held its first day back on Oct. 29 and began with an international field of 132 surfers.
Among the notable eliminations earlier yesterday, Hawaii's Sunny Garcia -- a former world and Xcel champ -- was eliminated in the fourth round. Defending Xcel winner Evan Valiere of Kauai lost in the quarters, while current WQS No. 1 Jordy Smith of South Africa went down in the semis.