On a morning that saw sun, rain squalls, then more sun, 4’ Sunset point barrels and a 6’ middle peak tease the hell out of the competitors, give ol’ Mother Nature a pat on the back for coming through – and at the very last second. The third and final day for the 24th XCEL PRO was a lucky strike for everyone involved. Days and days of an almost flat North Shore snapped to attention with a classic northwest swell at dawn and it was show time for the boys in the remaining 19 heats. Ewa Beach’s Joel Centeio, a six-year pro-in-waiting finally got the win he’s been looking for and a HUGE $10,000 pay day with his first place.
The Xcel Pro was definitely a roll call for the juniors of the surfing world. Sunset Beach’s 19 year old Mason Ho was 2nd with ‘neighbor’ 23 year old Makua Rothman taking third, followed by new-kid-on-the-block, 21 year old Alex Gray from Los Angeles’ South Bay beaches.
The nail biter of a final was down to the wire as Centeio, no stranger to last-second wins on O’ahu’s south shore events, found himself with one excellent-scored ride and needing only a 3.4 to take the first place slot from Ho – and an ocean that wasn’t wanting to spit up anything worthy. All four finalists were just paddling in circles, straining their eyes to the horizon at the radically shifting swells forcing them into 50 yard sprints from the point line-up to the inside middle peak. It was down to the final minutes when Joel blew it up on a gougeable wall, linking up major tail slides and snaps to overtake Mason, still in first. And at that point the ocean just sort of teased itself and the other three competitors up to the final horn. Centeio has little time to relax in his glory, he’s up early on Monday morning for the opening round of Vans Triple Crown of Surfing at Haleiwa.
“I’d give it four days, I reckon,” said Parko matter-of-factly, when asked how long he reckoned the party had left to go. Rabbit, having seen a couple of these things before, gave a less conservative estimate. “If we could wind it up by January 2 it’d be good.”