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Friday, November 22, 2002


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DEAN SENSUI / DSENSUI@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sunny Garcia was able to make the most of the 10- to 15-foot-faced waves yesterday at the Vans Hawaiian Pro 2002 at Haleiwa’s Alii Beach. Garcia managed to defeat current No. 1 Andy Irons of Kauai.



Garcia wins
in Haleiwa

It is his fourth win
in the event, a record


By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Treating his body like a favorite old surfboard, Sunny Garcia battled through a multitude of injuries yesterday to win the Vans Hawaiian Pro.

In waves at Haleiwa with 10- to 15-foot faces, Garcia managed to defeat a world-class field -- including current No. 1 Andy Irons of Kauai -- with tears to two of the four ligaments in his right knee, a cramping back and a cut just above his right eye.

"It's incredible for me," said the 32-year-old Garcia, whose record fourth win in the event made him $10,000 richer. "I'm almost speechless, because I wasn't expecting to win. My knee was bothering me, my back was killing me and I got a little 'bap' in the face by my board in the quarterfinals that hurt pretty bad. I just kept stumbling, kept making (it through) heats."

The Hawaiian Pro is the first men's event of the prestigious 20th anniversary Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, a series of three contests per gender at premiere surf spots on Oahu's North Shore.

With the victory, the Waianae-born Garcia also put himself in pole position to extend his own record (five) of Triple Crown championships, which goes to the series' best overall performer.

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DEAN SENSUI / DSENSUI@STARBULLETIN.COM
Andy Irons got some air during the quarterfinals of the Vans Hawaiian Pro in Haleiwa yesterday.




Garcia took a commanding lead right from the start of the finals, nabbing what turned out to be his top two scoring rides within the first five minutes of the 35-minute heat. Only the top two scores count for a maximum total of 20 points; Garcia finished with 15.50.

"I got two good waves at the beginning," he said. "The rest of the final, the waves just got bumpy and kinda mushy."

Tom Whitaker's second-place finish was his best of the year with 12.60 points.

"Nothing compares to competing and doing good in Hawaii -- nothing at all," said the 23-year-old Australian.

Whitaker's countryman Jake Paterson took third, with 10.73, and Irons finished fourth, at 10.60. Irons, who has a commanding lead in the world title race and is poised to become only Hawaii's third world champion (Garcia in 2000, Derek Ho in 1993), was consistently posting some of the event's highest scores until the final, when the best wave he could manage was a 5.77.

Irons may have expended himself just to make the last heat, however. He waited until about the last 10 minutes of his jaw-dropping semifinal to put together 9.80 and 8.23 rides to qualify. And he didn't even win or get the highest single-wave score: Paterson won by three-tenths with an 8.90 ride as time expired and Florida's six-time world champion, Kelly Slater, posted a perfect 10, but couldn't get another high score.

"I think I peaked in that one," Irons, 24, said. "That semi was insane. That was one of the best heats I've surfed in a while, with the lineup (of other surfers)."

Garcia's cramps greatly hindered his paddling ability and the injury to the knee of his back leg should've hurt his ability to turn, but he sandwiched a second-place finish between two firsts yesterday in his three-heat run to the finals.

And once there, only a minute in, Garcia got covered by the fickle barreling section on his first wave and he had the power to ride through the open end for an 8.83. He also kept attempting his signature deep carving maneuvers, as evidenced by the 6.67 he received a few minutes later.

Garcia sat out four World Championship Tour events when he initially hurt his knee three months ago, but he's set on trying to ensure his tour qualification for next year. While the Hawaiian Pro is not a WCT event, the win at least provided him with momentum for a final push in the last two Triple Crown events -- which are the WCT season-enders.

Like that trusty board, Garcia simply plans to keep using duct tape to patch the biggest dings on his body. He had a four-inch wrap of it as support for his knee every time he hit the water at the Hawaiian Pro.

"You can do anything with duct tape," Garcia joked.

Competition finishes today at Haleiwa with the remaining heats of the Roxy Pro -- the first jewel of the women's Triple Crown -- and the Davidoff Cool Water Xpression Session. The next stop for the men's series is at Sunset Beach for the Rip Curl Cup, with a waiting period that begins Sunday.



Vans Triple Crown of Surfing



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