Pancho (pictured here at the 2008 Monster Energy Pipeline Pro – which he also won)
After putting on a heavy-handed display of dominance yesterday at the Xcel Pro presented by Honolua Surf Co., SURFING sat down with winner Pancho Sullivan to talk a little bit about surfing perfect waves with a few friends, Hawaiian dominance and what it means to be back home for the big show.
SURFING: SUNSET'S ALWAYS A HARD READ. HOW GOOD WAS IT OUT THERE YESTERDAY?
PANCHO: For that direction, it would have been even better if it were bigger, 'cause it had a lot of west in it. But at that size, it was just perfect and fun. When it's like that you kinda get that bonus section through the middle part of Val's. You normally don't get to surf that part of the reef when it has any kind of north in it.
LIKE IT DID LAST WEEK, FOR THE EARLY ROUNDS.
Exactly. Last week was a lot of northeast. It was all over the place.
SO DID YOU ADJUST TO A SMALLER BOARD FOR THE FINAL DAY?
I've been riding the same board, and it's much bigger than what most of the other guys were riding — a 7'4". My theory was to just be able to position myself in the lineup and be able to cover a lot of ground and harness all the speed. The faces of the waves were so clean that you had all this speed coming off the bottom and I just wanted to push it as hard as I could.
WAS IT A FRESH BOARD FOR THE COMP?
No, I've been riding it for the last two weeks, so it felt good under my feet. I rode it on the first good swell that we had and then through the days that the contest was off — from Pupukea to Kammieland. It's just one of those boards that makes you feel like you can ride anything.
TAKE US THROUGH THE 9.77 YOU GOT IN THE OPENING MINUTES OF THE FINAL.
When we got out there, we were all trying to figure out our positions in the lineup and my strategy was to just kind of pick two heat winners. Plus, with a longer heat time (30 min.), I figured I'd be a little more patient and position myself as deep as I could on the peak.
So I saw that set swinging. I saw the third wave in the set and those guys had a little deeper position than I had, so they all moved toward the west peak and I just decided to not hassle for the first couple and go for that third. So I paddled over from where they were and I was just in good position and went for it. I figured it was the final and I had better go for broke.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU, WINNING THE XCEL PRO?
It's really important. I spend the entire year traveling around to a lot of spots that I feel like I can't surf to my potential. I spend a lot of time waiting. So when I can come home to Hawaii and get a good result, it's really important. And the Xcel has always been the gauge of the season for not just me, but all of the Hawaiians. Most of these guys don't follow the normal competitive cycle, so the Xcel Pro is their first chance to get on the main stage and display how good they really are — for most of them, their best surfing comes out here.
AND WHAT OF RETIREMENT FROM THE ASP WORLD TOUR?
It was a decision I made last year. On the Tour, you get to the point where you have to ask yourself, what's more important here…?
FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH PANCHO AND HIS PLANS FOR RETIREMENT, CHECK OUT THE MARCH ISSUE OF SURFING.
FOR FULL EVENT STATS, PHOTOS AND VIDEOS, LOG ON TO: www.xcelpro.xcelwetsuits.com/2008