Each year the Xcel Pro whets the palate for the North Shore season, setting the mood for the upcoming Triple Crown and Hawaiian winter. More than just the first course of an aquatic buffet, the Xcel Pro has formed a special niche for itself in Hawaii, giving the local crew a chance to test their game against the world's best at one of the most esteemed peaks in the world. With the waiting period for the event right around the corner on October 30, we sat down with Xcel front man Ed D'Ascoli for some insider info on an event steeped in history.

Can you talk about the Xcel Pro and what it has historically meant to Hawaiian surfers?

Ed D'Ascoli: Our intentions at Xcel have always been to kick off the season on the North Shore with this event. It's a contest for a lot of the young amateur and professional surfers to perform at a world-class wave like Sunset Beach. I think it also kind of gets everyone prepped for the winter. That said, we want to run it when the it's at its biggest, so we've got a rule that no one under the age of 16 can be seeded into the event.

How long has Xcel been supporting the event?

For 26 years now.

Do you have a favorite memory from the contest that stands out to you?

We've had a lot of great events, but yeah, I think back in the early '90s, I think it was actually in 1990, we had some of the best surf ever for the contest. It was big, perfect, sheet-glass conditions. That's one I can't forget.

Do you guys have anything new planned for the event this year?

We do. Aside from the slots into the Haleiwa and Sunset events of the Triple Crown that we do for some of the top surfers, the winner of this year's event will get a trip to the Von Zipper Trials to compete for a wildcard spot at next year's Billabong Pro WCT contest at Teahupoo.

Surfing legitimate Sunset has been likened to competing in an Ironman. Any truth to that analogy?

Yeah, I would say so. To do well out there, you need talent and you need stamina. It's such a large playing field out in the lineup. Other than Hawaii surfers, I think a lot of West Oz surfers seem to do well out there because it's like the waves they have at home. But the wave itself can be so varied. It really tests you as a surfer.