Wednesday, November 11, 1998
A pair of young Hawaii surfers is eager to get into the waves as the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing heads to Haleiwa. They each want to take their surfing to the next level.
Keala Kennelly of Kauai could score a triple whammy by winning the G-Shock Hawaiian Pro for women. A victory would earn her a spot on next year's elite World Championship Tour (WCT), put her in first place for the Triple Crown of Surfing title and earn her a wild-card spot in the Quiksilver Roxy Pro at Sunset Beach, the final Triple Crown event.
"The pressure is on," Kennelly said. "Will I use it to do well, or let it destroy me? I'm just going to go to Haleiwa and give it my best shot.
"The main thing for me is to qualify for the WCT. I want that more than the Triple Crown."
Kennelly has proven that she can perform under pressure, having taken second place Monday in the Billabong Girls at Maili Point, the first wahine event of the Triple Crown. And in 1995 she placed second in the Roxy Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa. She just has to take that crucial next step.
The world's top surfers have been amazed by the performances of Sunset Beach's Pancho Sullivan, but he was unable to channel his unrestrained talent into contest success. All that changed Sunday when he blew away the competition to win the Xcel Pro at Sunset.
"This is momentum for the Triple Crown of Surfing," Sullivan said of his Xcel victory. He now is keen to use that momentum to prove to everyone that he is a legitimate threat to win the Triple Crown title. By winning the G-Shock Hawaiian Pro, the first men's event in the Triple Crown, Sullivan would convince even the most stubborn doubters.
"It's the biggest Triple Crown ever, with a lot of media attention. It helps my sponsors to know that I can also do it in competition and not just in free-surfing."
There are a lot of desperate surfers standing in the way of Kennelly and Sullivan. For many, the Triple Crown events are the last chance for WCT surfers to requalify for the tour, and for surfers on the World Qualifying Series (WQS) to reach the WCT.
To many surfers, winning the Triple Crown of Surfing title is more prestigious than capturing the world title, because it is so difficult to accomplish. It takes an exceptionally diverse athlete to prevail against the world's best surfers in the hollow lefts and rights at Pipeline, shifty, treacherous Sunset and temperamental Haleiwa in waves small, large and huge.
To make things more interesting, Vans has offered a $1 million bonus to the male surfer who wins all three contests.
"The first contest is at Haleiwa, my favorite event," says North Shore's Ross Williams. "I would just be stoked to win the Triple Crown. Maybe if we all went in on this and split the winnings, someone could win the million dollars."
Former Triple Crown champion Kaipo Jaquias intends to be less cooperative if he doesn't win the G-Shock Pro. "I'm going to make sure no one will win that if I can help it."
Conan Hayes of the Big Island is in a good position to rejoin the WCT after competing on the WQS all year, earning an 11th position and with two Triple Crown contests in which to boost his standing.
Shawn Sutton of Ewa Beach is rated 31st on the WCT, but with two good showings in the Triple Crown he could ascend from 21st place on the WQS and requalify for the WCT.
The G-Shock Hawaiian Pro will also feature an inaugural longboard competition that the world's top longboarders will use as a warmup for the World Longboard Championship in the Canary Islands later this month. "We'll compete with all the contestants," said three-time world champion Rusty Keaulana. "I'm looking forward to winning this one."
"It's good training for us," added world longboard champion Dino Miranda.
Women's world champion Layne Beachley of Australia is ready to dash Kennelly's hopes as she prepares to continue her dominance in Hawaii's waves.
Although Beachley's ouster in the semifinal heat of the Billabong Girls was not ideal, it kept her in striking distance for her second Triple Crown title.
And fellow Hawaii wahine competitors Rochelle Ballard and Megan Abubo are also determined to win the G-Shock in a bid to wear the Triple Crown.
"I hope the waves are really good, and I can just surf," says Abubo, who grew up surfing Haleiwa's waves. "I had a good run in the Triple Crown last year.
"Making two finals made me feel good about myself.
"There is such a strong group of younger girls from Hawaii, I'd love to see the Hawaii girls do well in the Triple Crown. That would be the ultimate, even if I didn't win it, to see one of the other Hawaii girls win."
Where: Nov. 12-23
Where: Haleiwa Alii Beach
Prize: Men, $60,000; Women; $12,500.
Impact: 4-star WQS event earns men valuable points toward a spot on next years elite World Championship Tour. Three-star WQS event for women. First year for a $10,000 longboard invitational competition for men.
Information: Hotline - 637-6376; Net surfers: www.vans.com, www.surfline.com, www.asplive.com.