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Gaskell mildly surprised about Xcel Pro win at Sunset


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Hank Gaskell won the 26th annual Xcel Pro at Sunset Beach yesterday with wave-face heights in the 12- to 16-foot range.

The lanky 23-year-old from Hana, Maui, was the only finalist under the age of 30 and narrowly beat defending champ Pancho Sullivan at the 2-star World Qualifying Series event.

Gaskell was baffled when they announced Sullivan as the runner-up during the awards ceremony.

“;I felt really good and my board was feeling really good,”; admitted Gaskell after the 30-minute final. “;I had two waves that I did two turns on and I just figured that somebody else did better. I was trying to get the middle runner waves and do my own thing.”;

Gaskell's game plan worked out well all contest long, as he won every heat he paddled out in. In the process, Gaskell gained entry into the 2010 Von Zipper Trials for the Billabong Pro Tahiti and a first-place check for $5,000.

“;This is my last $5,000,”; joked Gaskell. “;I just spent all my money on my (surfboard) quiver and I invested in the Tokoros and they paid off. So, now I got a little money that I can invest in myself again.”;

Earlier this year, Gaskell lost his sponsor due to the declining economy. He has been without major financial backing for a while. He hopes that this win will catch the attention of the surf industry and help him lock down a sponsorship so he can travel the world on tour.

Gaskell's performance is a testament to his competitive prowess and eye-catching style of surfing.

“;This is an amazing start to my winter and I've never had a result this good in my life,”; Gaskell said. “;I wasn't really expecting to win this, and hopefully this starts a snowball effect. I've been kind of off this year.”;

If this is how Gaskell surfs when he's off, then it should prove interesting to see what he does when he's on, especially if it's during the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. With this win, he is guaranteed a spot in the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach. In addition, he is invited to the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa and qualifies for the Billabong Pipeline Masters via the HIC Pipeline Pro.

“;I love the Triple Crown. It's my favorite time of the year,”; said Gaskell. “;I've always loved Sunset since I was really young, and my coaches — Rainos Hayes and Mike Latronic — they would always give me tips. Even though I'm from Maui, the North Shore has always been really important.”;