KIRSTIN SCHOLTZ / COVERED IMAGES
Former ASP world champion Sunny Garcia took second place in his third-round heat at the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa yesterday.
Garcia shows that he’s back on board
A top seed for most of his long career, Hawaii's Sunny Garcia in past years would have bypassed the early rounds and still have yet to hit the water at the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
But competing for the first time in the prestigious series of three events on Oahu's North Shore since three months in federal prison and six months of house arrest earlier this year for tax evasion, the 37-year-old pro has had to surf since Day 1 of the Triple Crown's first jewel -- the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa.
Garcia won his first-round heat on Monday, and continued to advance through the second of four total competition days for the men's Hawaiian Pro yesterday by winning his second-rounder and placing second in his third-rounder.
Waves were in the 4- to 8-foot-face range for the second straight day. The Hawaiian Pro began with an international field of 160 surfers and is through heat 6 of 16 in the third round. It is a $125,000, 6-star World Qualifying Series event.
"I'm still having some aches and pains," said Garcia, who won his second-round heat yesterday morning with 14.67 (out of 20) total points for his top two waves. In the afternoon, he led early and for most of his third-rounder, but settled for a narrow runner-up finish with 13.17 points to advance along with heat winner Jeremy Flores (13.77) of France.
"I'll hopefully get better with time," Garcia added, "but I'm happy where I'm at with my surfing right now."
After previously winning a record six of the Triple Crown championships that go to the top overall performer in the three contests and five Hawaiian Pro titles -- as well as the world championship in 2000 -- Garcia is a little miffed, however, that his past accomplishments didn't prevent him from having to slug his way through the early rounds.
Before the start of the Triple Crown, he said he lobbied series officials for a higher seed in the Hawaiian Pro but was told he would only bypass the trials segment and have to start in the first round.
"Not to sound conceited or anything -- this is a good warm-up -- but I think it's kinda insulting," Garcia said. "But it's the same old thing: If I want something, I'm gonna have to work for it, and that's fine by me. I'm here to prove a point that I'm still very capable. I hope the (top seeds) are feeling fear, because I'm here to win doing whatever it takes."
With the current swell and conditions, the men's Hawaiian Pro could continue today. But it's more likely, according to Triple Crown officials, that the final day of the women's Hawaiian Pro will run when competition resumes at Haleiwa. The waiting periods for both run through Nov. 24.
Other Hawaii surfers who advanced out of either the second or third round yesterday were: Ian Walsh, Granger Larsen, Daniel Jones, Dusty Payne, Chas Chidester, Nathan Carroll, Jason Shibata, Dustin Barca and Kekoa Bacalso.
"I'm just trying to take it heat by heat," Bacalso, 22, said. "Hopefully the waves get bigger, and I can post a big result. I'll keep rolling the dice, and hopefully I'll hit one of these times -- I can feel it in my veins that it will happen."
Besides Flores, other non-Hawaii surfers to win their third-round heats included Spain's Gony Zubizareta (18.60), Australia's Nic Muscroft (15.50) and Matt Wilkinson (15.60), posting the top scores of the round.