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Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, December 7, 2000

By Ronen Zilberman, Star-Bulletin
Sunny Garcia catches a wave during yesterday's
final of the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset beach.

Garcia adds
another gem
to crown

The surfer wins his second
jewel of the Triple Crown
after nearly drowning

By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Fifteen years after he began his professional career on the Association of Surfing Professionals' World Championship Tour, Hawaii's Sunny Garcia finally has the men's world title that had previously eluded him.

Yesterday, Garcia continued his dominating run, overcoming a near-drowning incident to win the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach. He easily won the final, posting 18.05 points to 14.85 by runner-up Tiago Pires of Portugal.

It was the second consecutive win in the Vans G-Shock Triple Crown of Surfing for Garcia and all but assures him of a record fifth Triple Crown title. The last event of the season is the Mountain Dew Pipe Masters, which begins its holding period Saturday at Pipeline.

By Pierre Tostee, ASP World Tour
Sunny Garcia, after Winning the rip curl cup at sunset
beach: 'I came close a lot of times.'

Yesterday started off anything but positive for Garcia.

"I grabbed a little wave and the whitewash hit me,'' said Garcia of his first heat of the morning. "I fell and got dragged quite a long way and couldn't get up for air. I was right beneath the surface and I could feel my hands out of the water. But every time I took a deep breath, I swallowed water.

"A win was a long way from a near drowning in the first heat.''

Garcia is the first surfer in 13 years to win back-to-back Triple Crown events. Defending Cup champion Andy Irons of Kauai was third (14.25) with Australia's Zane Harrison fourth.

It's been a wild few months for Garcia.

While in Brazil during late October, the 30-year-old Garcia's third-place finish at the Rio Surf International contest secured him this year's men's WCT title, putting his cumulative point total out of reach from his nearest competitors. Though always a standout performer since he joined the tour at 16, Garcia had never finished better than third before this year, doing so four times (1992, 1994, 1995 and 1996).

"I came close a lot of times, and I think everything happens for a reason," said Garcia of his previous futility in capturing the title. "Maybe I never would have won one if I hadn't come so close and been so heartbroken so many times."

Garcia may have a prestigious spot completely his own in the record books. His close friend and rival, Derek Ho, who also won Hawaii's only other men's world title in 1993, is currently tied with Garcia for the most ever championships at four each.

The Triple Crown is a series of three contests at different big-wave surfing venues on the North Shore. Many consider it a very close second to the overall world championship in prestige. The best overall performer in the three contests is the champion.

The only surfer who can mathematically overtake Garcia for the Triple Crown title is Hawaii's Kaipo Jaquias. But Jaquias would have to win the Pipe Masters and Garcia would have to lose in his first heat.

"Me and Derek have always been real competitive," said Garcia, who was raised in Maili but now resides in Hanalei, Kauai. "With him having a world title and four Triple Crowns, we're tied. It would be nice to get one up on him just to have bragging rights."

The first event of the women's Triple Crown event was the Quiksilver Roxy Pro. The first contest was held at Honolua Bay on Maui before the men's series started, and the second was the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa Beach.

Lately there has been a lack of women's world champions on the tour, which was established in 1977, a year after the men's.

Hawaii's Margo Oberg and Lynne Boyer captured the first five titles, winning three and two, respectively. Since then, however, Australians and surfers from the mainland U.S. have dominated.

Australian Layne Beachley wrapped up her third consecutive world title this year, but Hawaii's own Megan Abubo has made a big splash this season.

The 22-year-old, who resides near Waimea Bay, finished second. In five previous years on the women's circuit, Abubo's highest finish was seventh last season. Abubo's performance this season may signify that the women's world title drought for Hawaii could end in the near future.

"I've had a great year this year," Abubo said. "I've been trying my hardest to give a little something back to Hawaii, and to a lot of the younger girls from Hawaii to have someone to look up to."

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