Coconut Wireless: Hank Gaskell Wins The Xcel Pro Sunset Beach

Coconut Wireless: Hank Gaskell Wins The Xcel Pro Sunset Beach

This year’s Xcel Pro was blessed with classic 8-12 foot surf through out the three days of competition. At times the lineup was so angry and chaotic, guys couldn’t even catch a single wave in their 22-minute heats. That’s why I rode a 7’5” for most of the event, and advanced through to the Quarterfinals just by catching waves. Sunset Beach makes you work, and don’t give anyone any free rides. Former ASP World Champions Derek Ho, Sunny Garcia, and Andy Irons were all victims of the Sunset warble, and didn’t make it past the third round. The guys advancing were either really lucky, or the few who put some sort of time in out there.

Hank Gaskell Wins the Xcel Pro Sunset Beach. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Hank Gaskell Wins the Xcel Pro Sunset Beach. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Pancho Sullivan and Sunset Beach are best friends. In free surfs and contests at Sunset, Pancho is the guy to beat. His track record for winning the Xcel Pro is tied with Michael Ho’s 4 victories, and Panch’ was aiming to top that with a legendary 5th victory. It’s clear that Pancho Sullivan clocks in more time, and knows Sunset better than anyone right now. He’s just in-tune with the whole surging, warbled playing field out there. Each heat he surfed, his average wave scores were in the 8′s and 9′s, and he caught more good waves than anyone in any heat. In the Final he looked similar, even while up against Myles Padaca, Shane Beschen, and Hank Gaskell. In my eyes, Pancho clearly won, but even after being carried up the beach, he was rewarded with second place! Unsponsored Hank Maui surfer Gaskell torqued some razor sharp turns and I guess the judges liked his 2 razor-move waves, more than Pancho’s 3-to-4 power-move waves. Hmmm… Well it’s hard to judge with no computer scoring at a low-budget 2 star WQS, but the contest directors and faculty all made the best with what they had, and it turned out to be a great event nonetheless. I’m really happy for Hank taking the win because I know he needed the money, and I’m sure Pancho will win the Xcel Pro Sunset Beach many more times.

Aside from that, this past week on the North Shore was all about rapid change. Conditions went from sunny, glassy and teeny tiny, to big and unruly almost overnight. The beginning of the week we were cave diving at Sharks Cove (check the video below), and by the end of the week we were surfing 12-foot bombers. That’s why you need to be able to adapt to anything here, mainly because what each day calls for is constantly up in the air.—Flynn Novak

2009 Xcel Pro Sunset Beach Final Results
1 – Hank Gaskell (HAW)
2 – Pancho Sullivan (HAW)
3 – Myles Padaca (HAW)
4 – Shane Beschen (HAW)

Xcel Press Release:
Maui’s Hank Gaskell Wins 2009 Xcel Pro Presented by Honolua; Overcomes Sullivan, Padaca, Beschen in Gritty Final Heat

HALEIWA, OAHU, HAWAII – NOVEMBER 2, 2009 – Congratulations to Hank Gaskell (HAW), Tahiti-bound champion of this year’s 2009 Xcel Pro Presented by Honolua!

In a tough final heat of 4 Sunset specialists, Gaskell, 23, showed poise, patience, and smart wave selection to edge out runner-up Pancho Sullivan, third place Myles Padaca, and fourth place finisher Shane Beschen. “It’s an amazing start for my winter – I’ve never had a result this good in my life,” the soft-spoken Gaskell told Xcel after the winner’s ceremony on the beach.

Sunday’s NW swell declined only slightly for the morning’s semi-finals and finals heats, with Sunset clean and delivering 6′ to 10′ faces on the west peak. Swell conditions and extended heat times challenged competitors to be patient and find workable faces with scoring potential.

Solid off-the-top turns put Gaskell ahead of last year’s Xcel Pro winner Pancho Sullivan, whose trademark frontside hacks weren’t enough to get him past the up-and-comer from Hana. Gaskell’s consistently steady performances produced heat wins in Rounds 2, 3, and the quarterfinals, silently working his way into a final where Sullivan appeared to have the momentum needed to defend his ’08 Xcel Pro championship.

Displaying an aggressive, determined style that made him a standout through the competition, Sullivan seemed poised for a record fifth Xcel Pro title. However, 35 minutes and some open-face sets gave Gaskell the opportunities needed to earn his first big WQS win. “I felt good out there today,” Gaskell continued. “I was trying to get the middle runner waves and just do my own thing.”

Scoring waves from all four finalists led to a tight call as the winner was unclear until the beachside ceremony’s check and lei presentation. Gaskell will appear next in the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which continues the North Shore winter season at Haleiwa with the Reef Hawaiian Pro from November 12 through 23.

The 2009 Xcel Pro win earns Gaskell $5,000, 500 ASP WQS points, and an all-expenses-paid trip to Tahiti with entry into the 2010 VonZipper Trials at Teahupoo. The winner of the VonZipper Trials is wild-carded into the prestigious WCT Billabong Pro Tahiti.

“I’m really excited for Chopes,” Gaskell said when asked about the Trials trip. “I haven’t been there yet – it’ll be a new experience at one of the best waves in the world. I can’t wait.”

Heat results, photos, and daily video recaps are all available at the official event Web site at Official Xcel Pro merchandise is available exclusively online via presenting sponsor Honolua’s Web shop at

About the Xcel Pro
Celebrating its 26th anniversary this year, the 2009 Xcel Pro Presented by Honolua is a 2-Star ASP WQS event with a $25,000 purse, drawing pros and amateurs alike to world-class Sunset Beach along Oahu’s North Shore.

Honolua Surf Co. is the presenting sponsor of the event and is joined by associate sponsors VonZipper, Kustom, and Surfline. Surf News Network also supports the event as the official contest hotline (808-596-7873).

For more, please visit the contest Web site at

Xcel Pro Past Champions
1984 Kerry Terukina
1985 Denton Miyamura
1986 Hans Hedemann
1987 Ronnie Burns
1988 Michael Ho
1989 Richard Schmidt
1990 Michael Ho
1991 Michael Ho
1992 Sunny Garcia
1993 Kaipo Jaquias
1994 Derek Ho
1995 Kaipo Jaquias
1996 Michael Ho
1997 Andy Irons
1998 Pancho Sullivan
1999 Bruce Irons
2000 Pancho Sullivan
2001 Gavin Beschen
2002 Fred Pattachia
2003 Pancho Sullivan
2004 Fred Pattachia
2005 Ian Walsh
2006 Evan Valiere
2007 Joel Centeio
2008 Pancho Sullivan

About Xcel
Founded in 1982, Xcel International, Inc. (Xcel) is a global wetsuit brand distributed throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim. Headquartered on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, Xcel’s core wetsuit business focuses on the cutting edge of material and design development. Xcel’s primary markets include surf, dive, wakeboard, paddle, and sun (UV protection). In addition to its North Shore office, Xcel has retail locations on Oahu, Kauai, and Maui; and a warehouse/repair facility in California.

To learn more about Xcel, please visit