Garcia going out on top at Triple Crown of Surfing
It is still Sunny at the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
And he's not about to let anyone -- particularly his fellow competitors -- forget it.
Sunny Garcia, the 35-year-old veteran pro from Hawaii, may be retiring at the end of this prestigious series of three big-wave events on Oahu's North Shore that serves as the conclusion of the surfing season each year.
But he's also the defending champion at the first jewel, which began on Wednesday and continued yesterday. And, he also won the Triple Crown championship last year, the much-coveted award that goes to the best overall performer in the series.
He's won the first jewel -- the Op Pro Hawaii at Haleiwa -- a record five times and the Triple Crown a record six.
And he's very much still looking to add to these totals before he's done.
"Just because I'm retiring, that doesn't mean I'm not a good surfer anymore," said Garcia, who demonstrated his point by posting the only perfect 10 wave score so far in the event on the way to winning his third-round heat. The second round, and eight of 16 heats of the third, were completed yesterday.
"After 20 years on tour, it's just time for me to relax with my friends and family, see my kids grow up," he said. "But I've always said the Triple Crown is the most prestigious thing you can win in this sport."
Garcia received the perfect score on his first wave of the heat, after managing to get locked into two solid barrel rides on the same 15-foot-face wave, whereas others were struggling to even find one. He combined that with a 5.40 later, riding just two waves the entire 25-minute heat to post a two-wave high of 15.40 total points.
Waves averaged 10 to 18 feet yesterday.
"It's just wave knowledge," Garcia said. "I've been surfing at Haleiwa since I was 7."
Another local veteran who moved on was Kaipo Jaquias of Kauai. The 34-year-old surfer has not competed regularly for two years, but he is a former world No. 2, two-time winner at this Haleiwa contest and the 1996 Triple Crown champ.
Jaquias placed second in his third-rounder with 14.00 points. The North Shore's Fred Patacchia, currently ranked No. 13 in the world, won the heat with 16.87 and also moved on.
"I had to play catch-up (in the heat), and find my rhythm," Jaquias said. "Freddy and I got sucked way out there (in the lineup), and we had to fight our way back. But I'm really familiar with this place, really comfortable, and a lot of guys aren't.
"This is my favorite wave on Oahu. When I was an amateur I started off here, got my first win on an outer-island here -- so this place has a lot that's special about it for me."
Other Hawaii surfers to advance were: three-time world and two-time Triple Crown champ Andy Irons, Joel Centeio, 2001 Triple Crown winner Myles Padaca, Kamalei Alexander, Jamie O'Brien and Ian Walsh.
Makakilo's Centeio posted the highest overall heat score in the event so far with 18.23 points to win his third-rounder.
Other notables to move on included: former event runner-up Tom Whitaker (Australia), world No. 4 Mick Fanning (Australia), No. 15 Jake Paterson (Australia), No. 23 Taylor Knox (California) and Bobby Martinez (California).
With a declining, but still nice swell, series officials are likely to begin today with the first jewel of the women's Triple Crown, the Roxy Pro Hawaii, also at Haleiwa. Both the men's and women's Triple Crown openers must be completed by Nov. 23, before the surfers move on to the next jewels at Sunset Beach.