OPEN SEASON: Hawaii Heats Up for Xcel Pro

It was day three of the Xcel Pro’s holding period with a long range forecast of doom and gloom. It’s been a rocky start to an already insanely sluggish early winter season so a barely head high swell meant the 24th annual event was dead ahead.

The usual suspects were annoying each other in the dreaded First Round 6-man heats and really there wasn’t much going on through the morning hours. When high noon came around, though, it was a different picture. Sunny Garcia, wearing green with no seeded slot, no 2nd-day start, minus any special privileges, paddled out with the others for his heat #9.

A 3-wave set came walling up, stretching from outside of Sunset Point, across the Boneyards reef drain and into the Point horseshoe. With four solid bash/slap/smacks and a CRACK that brought him to the inside boils Sunny had thrown his own signature one-two punch that announced he had returned home. Fit and focused, he was ready for the fight and serious as hell to take the North Shore season’s first prize. Sunny’s 9.0 coupled to a 7.5 was the highest combo of the day…until the last heat of the afternoon when all hell broke loose with O'ahu's Joel Centeio .

Two phenomenal rides that included multiple gouging tail slides on a classic, retro-looking wing-swallow tail, fading bottom turns from deep in the pit and Sunny's 16.5 went out the door to JC's 18.8 two-wave total. The bar's now been raised, the challenge thrown down by a kid a decade younger than Garcia. This is going to be a contest that should get moved to Manahattan Square Gardens. I don't think anyone's going home early, folks, the internet's sizzling loud and clear and you're going to want to see how this contest plays out.

Tuesday morning and it’s a perfect North Shore scene, clear skies and light trades, everything’s there….but the surf. The swell’s dropped out to 3′ so the Xcel Pro will hold back on running Day #2 until Thursday when the next ‘bump’ is due in.