With the oncoming onslaught of El Nino weather patterns and new sponsorships of our favorite Hawaiian events, the 2004 North Shore contest season is shaping up to be a memorable showcase of guts and glory. So far, the Sandwich Islands have already received a couple of good Northwest swells this fall. And, according to Surfline’s Sean Collins, there are possibly a lot more on the way to Hawaii. “Since we do have an El Nino situation this year, the waters are generally warmer around the equatorial Pacific,” says Collins. “And between that warm water and typhoons in the Western Pacific, they’re going to fuel a little bit more energy for a lot of the storms this year.”

With the promise of epic Hawaiian surf, contest organizers have been making major moves in the off-season to step up this winter’s events.The 21st Annual Xcel Pro presented by Sobe No Fear at Sunset Beach, held from Oct. 27 – Nov. 18 is raising the bar with an upgrade of cash and QS points. “This year we brought in additional sponsors, Sobe No Fear as presenting sponsors and Town and Country Surfboards, so we were able to raise the prizemoney and the QS rating to a three star,” says Xcel President Ed D`Ascoli. “The philosophy of the contest is the same as 21 years ago, we do it primarily for the Hawaii guys to be able to surf with whatever traveling pros, so they can get that experience and get themselves exposure.”

Like the Xcel Pro at Sunset Beach, the {{{Vans}}} Triple Crown of Surfing is staying true to its original objective: showcasing the world’s best surfing talent in a variety of waves. The first jewel of the lucrative Triple Crown of surfing is the Vans Hawaiian Pro held at the chunky waves of Ali`i Beach park. $125,000 and valuable WQS points will be on the line from Nov. 12-24. Following the Vans Hawaiian Pro, the O’Neill World Cup at Sunset Beach is the last QS event of the year. Like the Vans Hawaiian Pro, the second jewel of the Triple Crown also awards $125,000 to its winners. Perhaps the most challenging field in the entire Triple Crown, the O’Neill World Cup will run from Nov. 26- Dec. 7.

Yet, there’s always redemption from the pitfalls of Sunset’s mountain-like right. The Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters is the final battleground for a Triple Crown title. Held from Dec. 8- Dec.20., the third jewel of the Triple Crown is the last event of the WCT season and a whopping $260,000 is up for grabs. Yet, this lucrative prize purse isn’t easily attained due to the three wildcards and 16 trialists that compete against the CT’s top 45. And as everybody knows, those three wildcards can upset any CTer’s championship fantasy with every Backdoor bomb and Pipe dream.Daniel Ikaika Ito

For more on the Vans Triple Crown, go to www.triplecrownofsurfing.com.