Xcel Pro Coverage: “Fathers and Sons” By Eric Johnson

Fred Patacchia Senior on his son Fred Junior: “If he could, he’d leave Brazil in a heartbeat to be here.

Fred Patacchia is in Brazil at the moment. In fact this morning he placed third in heat number nine of the Nova Schin Festival WCT Brasil 2006 behind Pedro Norberto (Brazil) and winner Taj Burrow (Australia). Although we didn’t get the words straight from his mouth, we know North Shore born and bred Patacchia isn’t too keen about being down in Imbituba for the penultimate round of the 2006 Foster’s ASP Men’s World Cup Tour.

You see the 2005 ASP Rookie of the Year–and currently 24th in the 2006 ASP WCT ratings–would much rather be back home in Sunset Beach, Hawaii competing in the 2006 Xcel Pro Presented by No Fear World Qualifying Series contest–an ultra-competitive contest he won both in 2002 and 2004. But instead of paddling out to face a North Swell churning out six-to-eight-foot (and quickly building) waves, he spent Monday, October 30, riding three-foot surf in Brazil.

Said beloved North Shore local Johnny Gomes of the ’06 Xcel: “Some of the best surfers in the world are here–no doubt. However, forced to defend his position in the ASP rankings, Fred Patacchia Junior is not. And he’s bummed. How do we know? We decided to talk to his father, Fred Patacchia Senior. 53 years in age and a North Shore native for the past 23 years (“I came to Hawaii when I was 20 years-old. There were no waves in Miami, just roller skates and girls.), to a large extent, Fred’s seen it all when it comes to all things surfing on the North Shore. With the Xcel Pro kicking off the unofficial North Shore surf season today, to help celebrate that fact, we asked Fred Patacchia Senior to talk about the seven-mile stretch of Oahu and the effect it has had on his son’s life…

“What we did with Fred and surfing was typical of what parents do with their kids here on the North Shore, said Fred Senior, explaining his son’s humble beginnings in surfing. “We would pack a lunch, go to the beach, hang out all day and surf, the kids would get tired, we’d take them home and they’d go to bed.

“I didn’t really see Fred becoming a professional at it, he continued. “I was not thinking that at all. I got him into little contests when he was in elementary school and we just kind of continued form there. He started to blossom and after a while we started to realize he needed to keep progressing. By middle school he was traveling to contests in Japan and Australia. At that point we could see he had talent. Fred wanted to be a professional surfer and he was talented, but he had to work at it. We saw the talent, but he wasn’t like some surfers who could do whatever they wanted to the night before, abuse themselves or whatever, and surf perfectly the next day. He had natural ability, but just like he is today, he excels when he has to focus and put his mind to it.

On December 13, 1965, the first Duke Kahanamoku Classic was born. With 24 of the world’s best surfers present at Sunset Beach, a 17 year-old named Jeff Hackman won the contest. In 1971, Hackman proved victorious again, winning the inaugural Pipeline Masters. In 1976, International Professional Surfing was conceived in Hawaii and with it, the launch of the first true professional world surfing tour. With the IPS–as well as the ascent of big-time professional surfing–the North Shore of Hawaii became the promised land of the sport. And with the folklore and the fame came the crowds…

“When the North Shore came to be was in 1970, explained Patacchia. “Into the mid-1970s the contests started and guys from California, Florida and Texas started to come over. The surf scene on the North Shore was becoming more international and growing daily. That’s when things started to change. When that happened, I think there was a desire for the Hawaiian guys to keep control–they wanted to hold onto it and keep things from getting out of hand. Some of the local guys were pretty bummed about the contests.< In 1983, a man named Fred Hemmings strung together the Triple Crown of Surfing. According to Hemmings at the time, "The concept was to focus attention on three of the world's most prominent surfing competitions held in unquestionably the most competitive and awesome surfing venue anywhere. Once the Tripe Crown came on the pipe, there was no turning back as the crown jewel of professional surfing became the sport's Superbowl/World Series/Daytona 500.

“Once the Triple Crown came that became the biggest jewel in the world, Patacchia said. “I mean there was no Teahupoo and places like that back then and all these great photos were being shot in Hawaii and everybody wanted to be there. It was crowded in the 1970s, but nothing like it became then. The game was the same, but being played differently.Fred Patacchia Junior was born on December 15, 1981 on the North Shore of Oahu. Although his mother and father were heavily involved in the North Shore surfing community and industry (owning a company called Hawaiian Surf), Fred Senior wasn’t exactly a Little League dad, pushing to get his son in the water as soon as possible.

“Fred started at Haleiwa, said Patacchia Sr., careful to point out they took the slow, scenic routt when Fred first rode the whitewash. “It was a convenient place for us to surf and more of an “entry level break. There was a wide variety of surfers and everyone was more tolerant. There has always been a group of elders there and they kind of watched out for everyone. It was nothing like Pipeline or Sunset. There were no elders there. It was a good place for Fred to start surfing.

“Fred then moved over to Rocky Point and got that dialed in pretty quickly, added Patacchia, explaining how things started to get a tad bit more serious. “I knew people there, and in time, Fred taught himself to slowly move up to the peak of the wave. It was kind of like people gut used to him there. Fred took the attitude of, ‘I’m here to stay.’

“Slowly, he then moved into Pipeline. It took a few years to get respect there because nobody wants to move over. There’s a huge pecking order there–more so than anywhere else on the North Shore–and it takes a big adjustment to move up the ladder. It’s kind of like, ‘Hey, kid. You’re in the way. Move over.’

In 1997, Fred Patacchia Junior packed his bags and began what would be a 10-year globetrotting Odyssey on the ASP World Qualifying Series. Initially an arduous, frustrating struggle, Patacchia, who was a highly touted NSSA National Champion, just about called time on his career before it all came right in 2005 when he hopped on the ASP WCT tour and after placing 14th in the final ratings, was named the ASP Rookie of the Year. Despite the highs and lows of living out of a suitcase on the WQS, two things kept Fred Junior chugging along: Wins at both the 2002 and 2004 Sunset Xcel Pro. While not a part of the Triple Crown of Surfing nor an ASP WCT round, the Xcel is regarded by many a surfer as one of the world’s more prestigious contests. Fred Patacchia Senior elaborated on the Xcel and what it has meant to him and his son.

“Fred is so proud of those wins from the Xcel Pro that he had his jerseys professionally framed. The Xcel wins are hallmarks in Fred’s career. The point is Fred winning the Xcel Pro made his name known all over the world. To me it is a very prestigious event. I’m very proud Fred won in two times. Everybody remembers who wins a contest in Hawaii like the Xcel Pro. It’s not like, ‘Who won the Oakley Pro in Newport?’ Look who has won the Xcel: Michael Ho, Derek Ho, and Richard Schmidt. Fred’s name is up there with some of the greatest surfers of all-time.

When asked what he believes means more to his son, being a two-time Xcel Pro winner or being named the 2005 ASP Rookie of the year, Fred Senior paused for a long moment. “Winning the Xcel pro has taken him further, he finally offered. “When people remember Fred’s name, the remember the Xcel. Being named the ASP Rookie of the Year is nice, but I think Fred would rather be known for winning the Xcel Pro. Winning the Rookie of the Year means you were first in line amongst the rookies. Winning the Xcel Pro means you beat the best guy out there.

Incommunicado in Brazil once the WCT Brasil fired up, Fred Patacchia Junior was not able to weigh-in on the 23rd annual running of the Xcel Pro. However, Fred Senior was able to recall a very recent anecdote that pretty much sums it all up for the father and son. “We were down at the beach the night before Fred left for Brazil. The Xcel guys had all the scaffolding up for the contest. Fred saw it and said to me, ‘I gotta fly to Brazil tomorrow. Why would I want to go there? I’ll probably go there and the surf will one-foot or two-foot. If I could, I’d drop the round in a heartbeat so I could win here.’

Fred Pattachia Junior may not be standing on the sand at Sunset Beach, but rest assured, his old man is.d the ASP Rookie of the Year is nice, but I think Fred would rather be known for winning the Xcel Pro. Winning the Rookie of the Year means you were first in line amongst the rookies. Winning the Xcel Pro means you beat the best guy out there.

Incommunicado in Brazil once the WCT Brasil fired up, Fred Patacchia Junior was not able to weigh-in on the 23rd annual running of the Xcel Pro. However, Fred Senior was able to recall a very recent anecdote that pretty much sums it all up for the father and son. “We were down at the beach the night before Fred left for Brazil. The Xcel guys had all the scaffolding up for the contest. Fred saw it and said to me, ‘I gotta fly to Brazil tomorrow. Why would I want to go there? I’ll probably go there and the surf will one-foot or two-foot. If I could, I’d drop the round in a heartbeat so I could win here.’

Fred Pattachia Junior may not be standing on the sand at Sunset Beach, but rest assured, his old man is.