Labor of Love: Ed D'Ascoli on the 2006 Xcel Pro

In 1984, in an effort to help the local surfing community and to help grow his then fledgling wetsuit business (and in that order) Ed D'Ascoli created the Xcel Pro surf contest. First held at Haleiwa's Ali'i Park, the Xcel Pro was a hit with both the industry and the North Shore surf scene. Two years later, the Xcel Pro was picked up and promptly dropped down at Sunset Beach, its current address for the last two decades. During this period, the Xcel Pro has researched and developed homegrown talent with now globally known surnames such as Ho, Irons, Garcia, Patacchia and Sullivan.
For 2006, the Xcel Pro has taken another step forward by being upgraded to 4-Star status in the Association of Surfing Professionals World Qualifying Series. In two weeks time — on October 27, 2006 to be precise — the clock that is the waiting period for the Xcel Pro will begin ticking. The unofficial start of the North Shore winter season, the Xcel Pro, for numerous reasons, means many things to many people. None more than founder Ed D'Ascoli. For 23 years the 53 year-old former mainlander has utilized the Xcel to not only help push his wetsuit line, but as an affair of the heart to help give back to the Hawaiian surfing culture that means so much to him. Enough flapjaw… Let's let Ed speak his piece…

Ed, the waiting period starts soon for the 2006 Xcel Pro, how is the event shaping up?

Ed D'Ascoli:Everything is moving along fine and we're all set-up. We've been doing this for so long — this will be our 23rd time — that we're on cruise control. Unfortunately, I can't let all the guys in that I want to. I've found myself "sorry" too man times. In fact I just had a father on the phone today trying to get his son in. Our alternate list is 70 surfers long. Now that the contest has been raised up to a 4-star, we can't let in as many non-entered Hawaiian surfers as we want. We have big wave guys and we have amateur guys on the edge of turning pro, but since we are a 4-Star now, the ASP takes control of the number of entries. So we have 16 non-rated surfers permitted to surf in the contest and six wildcards.

Do you know who your wildcards will be?

Ed D'Ascoli:We were able to pick three on behalf of the contest and our sponsors. The three surfers we chose are Charlie Carroll, who will surf in the round of 64, and Kawika Stillwell and Mike Dodd, who will surf in the round of 96. The ASP will also choose three wildcards.

It's a bit early, but any kind of read on the type of conditions that'll greet the Xcel Pro?

Ed D'Ascoli:Well, we've had a lot of moderate size swell. We may be also receiving our first big swell from the typhoon in Japan — the swell from that typhoon may curve north into this hemisphere, but it usually takes a long time and it's hard to tell. It's early in the winter season and that's the reason why we have a longer waiting period. We might get eight to 10-foot surf one time a week, but with it being this early in the season, the surf can come up during the day and come right back down.

To many in the surf community, the Xcel Pro at Sunset is the true kickoff to the winter surf season in Hawaii…

Ed D'Ascoli:It is. The Xcel Pro does kick off the winter season and everyone is all jazzed up. You also have young surfers competing against older surfers so there are a lot of little sideshows going on which makes it exciting. I just hope we get good waves. If you have good surf, you have a great contest.

Although the Xcel isn't part of the Triple Crown, it's very special in its own right. How would you describe the Xcel's place in the North Shore lineup?