On the eve of the first day of the holding period of the Xcel Sunset Pro, historically the opening course of the North Shore winter, we caught up with Evan Valiere winner of the event in 2006. No stranger to heavy surf, Valiere opens up about the mental aspects of holding your own at one of the most challenging waves on the planet and what, exactly, it's gonna take to win out there.

In your mind, what's so special about Sunset?

I think Sunset is a really great wave because it's just really raw and super powerful. It's a big-wave spot that really breaks across a large spread. So it's really all about power surfing with huge barrels and big turns. I think it's just so special because it's such a challenging wave.

Having won out there before, do you feel more confident in this event or is Sunset such a varied wave that you always have to be on your A-game?

I pretty much feel confident in most events but, yeah, I am more confident out there and the rest of the events in Hawaii I guess. But anything can happen at Sunset at any point in the heat; the most crucial part is being in the right place at the right time to get the waves. It isn't about really beating or out-surfing other guys, but it's more about riding the waves.

Would you say that Sunset exposes weakness in some surfers?

I can say that Sunset is probably the hardest place to get consistent results.

In your eyes, what group of surfers tends to do well out there?

Anyone could do well out at Sunset just so long as they have some big-wave experience and know-how when it comes to riding bigger boards. But then again, I'd say that the Hawaiians have some advantage because it's in our backyard.

How much of surfing a wave like Sunset is a mental game and how physical is it surfing out there?

It's definitely a mental game so far as positioning and getting psyched to drop in on the big ones goes. Also, to be able to hold your position and stay in the right spot when you just want to sprint towards the channel takes some will power. But it is extremely physical as well because catching a beating out there is gnarly. You can get really held down and pushed down really deep…and then catch a few more on the head.

For more on the Xcel Pro 2009, go to http://xcelpro.xcelwetsuits.com/2009/