Hawaii's own Evan Valiere has won the 2006 Xcel Pro Presented by No Fear, overcoming a 132-man field and three days of intense competition at Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore.
Hailing from Kauai and a familiar face on the North Shore, Valiere triumphed over Sunset local Makuakai Rothman, Tahiti's Michael Bourez, and past Xcel Pro champion Gavin Beschen.
As the 23rd Xcel Pro champion, Evan has added his name to a long list of world-class surfers, dating back to the first Xcel Pro champion Kerry Terukina (1984) and including Michael Ho; world champions Derek Ho, Sunny Garcia, and Andy Irons; and current WCT surfers Fred Pattachia and Pancho Sullivan.
"I feel incredible right now ... The list of past winners is really amazing." Valiere said after the championship ceremony on the beach. "It's all kind of a blur right now." The only goofy-foot riding in the finals, Valiere stayed focused and poised throughout the entire contest, which he began one week ago with a Round 2 seed.
Beschen finished second, 0.33 points behind Valiere's total two-wave score of 15.83. Bourez and Rothman, third and fourth respectively, were separated by only one-tenth of a point.
Viewers on the beach and watching the live Webcast online were treated to an exciting finals that was every bit as close as scores indicated. Beschen had set the pace early in the finals, distancing himself from the pack with rides that scored 7.5 and 8.0, showcasing the strength and consistency that led to his own Xcel Pro title in 2001. But Valiere, riding with confidence and patience, scored a solid barrel off Sunset Point that propelled him from fourth to first place with only five minutes left in the heat.
In addition to the current 2006 title, Valiere takes home a $10,000 check and 1,500 points toward his current rating on the ASP WQS.
The top-scored wave of the day was a perfect 10 and belonged to local Hawaiian Myles Padaca in his semifinal heat. Stalling into a deep barrel, Padaca was completely covered up in the tube, drawing cheers and excitement from the Sunset Beach crowds. Third-place rider Michael Bourez barreled a 9.93 in the finals, but it wasn't enough to overtake Valiere.
"This past week, I've felt really incredible, and winning here shows me I'm on the right track," Valiere says. "This win absolutely changes my career."
Full results, photos, and contest highlights are available at the official Xcel Pro Web site, http://xcelpro.xcelwetsuits.com.