In an all-Hawaiian, high-scoring 30-minute final, ASP World Tour surfer Sullivan took home his fourth Xcel Pro title, having previously won the event in 1998, 2000, and 2003.
Sullivan dominated from the start, hitting a contest-high 9.77 that put him firmly in the driver’s seat over fellow finalists Kamalei Alexander (2nd), Danny Fuller (3rd), and Makua Rothman (4th).
“Epic,” “pristine,” and “all-time” were just a few ways used to describe the glassy morning conditions, as a new northwest swell came in overnight and brought clean, corduroy lines to Sunset Beach. Sets were firing from the very first scored wave by Marco Giorgi (Uraguay), who lined up a barrel less than 3 minutes into his heat.
The long period swell stayed clean through the finals, challenging riders to stay in position off Sunset Point for optimal set wave selection.
“I held back and paddled a little deeper,” Sullivan said after the winner’s ceremony on the beach, on his strategy to move outside of Sunset’s west peak. “The third [9.77] wave of the set really helped me build momentum,” as he soon built upon his lead with another crowd-pleasing 8.67.
Runner-up Kamalei Alexander of Kauai, needing a 9.45 to overtake Sullivan in first, wasn’t able to catch the four-time Xcel Pro champion, taking off on an 8.70 in the final seconds of the heat.
“It was a fun, amazing final,” Sullivan noted. “The best final ever here, and such an honor to win the 25th anniversary Xcel Pro.”
The win surely vindicated Sullivan’s decision to bypass the World Tour’s Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro in Brazil, and instead focus on competing at his local break. Raised (in his words) “surfing the reform” at Sunset Beach, Sullivan prepared for his Xcel Pro win with smart training on his home turf.
Sullivan has announced his plans to retire from the prestigious World Tour at the end of this 2008 season.
2007 Xcel Pro defending champion Joel Centeio’s quest for a repeat title ended in the quarterfinals, falling to Makua Rothman, who made his third Xcel Pro finals appearance in as many years.
With the 2008 Xcel Pro a wrap, the North Shore now heads into the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.