First jewel of Triple Crown is up for grabs
The best male and female surfers gather at Haleiwa to battle for the prestigious title
The race to become the 2005 world champion is already over for the best male surfers in the world. But one of their biggest battles of the year is about to begin -- the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Op Pro Hawaii: Nov. 12-23, Haleiwa's Alii Beach Park. A $125,000 6-star World Qualifying Series event.
O'Neill World Cup of Surfing: Nov. 25-Dec. 6, Sunset Beach. A $125,000 6-star World Qualifying Series event.
Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters: Dec. 8-20, Banzai Pipeline. A $270,000 World Championship Tour finale.
Roxy Pro Hawaii: Nov. 12-23, Haleiwa's Alii Beach Park. A $65,000 World Championship Tour event.
O'Neill World Cup of Surfing Sunset Challenge: Nov. 25-Dec. 6, Sunset Beach, A $10,000 Women's Specialty event.
Billabong Pro Maui: Dec. 8-20, Honolua Bay. A $65,000 World Championship Tour finale.
The Triple Crown is a prestigious series of three events at premier big-wave venues in Hawaii. It celebrates its own champion as well as the best overall performer in the series.
And a Triple Crown champ earns nearly as much respect as a world champ, sometimes more.
"This is the consensus you get, especially now with the world title decided already," Triple Crown executive director Randy Rarick said. "Now it comes down to who can be the most dominant in three events in Hawaii in some of the biggest and best waves in the world."
The 23rd annual men's Triple Crown begins today with the Op Pro Hawaii at Haleiwa's Alii Beach Park, which has a waiting period that allows officials to pick the best days for competition through Nov. 23.
The eighth women's Triple Crown also starts today with the Roxy Pro Hawaii, at the same break and with the same waiting period.
The second jewels for the men and women will be held at Sunset Beach, Nov. 25-Dec. 6. The men finish at the Banzai Pipeline, Dec. 8-20, while the women end at the only Triple Crown break not on Oahu's North Shore with an event during the same dates at Honolua Bay, Maui.
Hawaii's Andy Irons was due to arrive on Oahu and get quickly hunkered down after losing his grasp of the world championship he held the last three years, last Tuesday in Brazil.
At that event, Florida's Kelly Slater wrapped up the 2005 title -- and extended the record he already owned to seven for his career -- by amassing an insurmountable points lead over Irons, the only surfer left who had a chance in this year's race.
The Triple Crown "is no consolation prize," said Rainos Hayes, the Hawaii team manager and coach for Billabong, Irons' main sponsor. "Andy ain't here to lose. He especially wants to win (the season and Triple Crown finale at) Pipe, he told me that (Wednesday). He's glad the pressure for the world title is off now. He's back home and can just go surfing -- and he's here to win everything he can."
Irons won the Triple Crown in 2002 and 2003, helped greatly by Pipeline Masters wins those years, too. And he's always maintained that his Triple Crowns mean practically as much to him as his world titles.
Then there are those, like defending and record six-time Triple Crown winner Sunny Garcia, for whom the Triple Crown has always meant more. If there's one who has authority to speak, it's Garcia, who also won a world title in 2000 and will retire after this season with 20 years on the international tour.
"Winning the Triple Crown of Surfing title means more than winning the world title," said Hawaii's Garcia. "It means you've accomplished the task among your peers in the world's best waves."
And it's not just the local pros feeling this way, either. Phillip MacDonald of Australia, the world's third-ranked surfer, said essentially the same thing after finishing runner-up to Garcia at the Haleiwa event last year.
These biggest of names -- including Slater -- will again be at the Triple Crown. So, too, will the lesser-known pros and up-and-comers.
For the women, the competition will be similarly stacked. But their world title race is still to be decided during the Triple Crown. Peru's Sofia Mulanovich is the defending world champ and current No. 1, but defending Triple Crown champ and second-ranked Chelsea Georgeson of Australia and third-ranked Megan Abubo of Hawaii still have a shot.
A shot at two major championships during the same series, as some would see it.