Keala Kennelly, Andy Irons, Layne Beachley and Pancho Sullivan will be gunning for the Triple Crown, which starts tomorrow.

World’s best
in search of
Triple Crown glory

Competition will be stiff
as surfing's biggest test begins

Triple Crown of Surfing


1. Vans Hawaiian Pro, at Haleiwa's Alii Beach Park, Nov. 12-23, $125,000 six-star World Qualifying Series event.
2. Rip Curl Cup, at Sunset Beach, Nov. 24-Dec. 7, $250,000 World Championship Tour event.
3. Xbox Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters, at the Banzai Pipeline, Dec. 8-20, $250,000 WCT finale.


1. Roxy Pro, at Haleiwa's Alii Beach, Nov. 12-23, $30,000 six-star WQS event.
2. Turtle Bay Resort Women's Pro, at the Turtle Bay Resort, Nov. 24-Dec. 7, $20,000 four-star WQS event.
3. Billabong Pro Maui, at Honolua Bay, Dec. 8-20, $60,000 WCT finale.

The biggest and best names in professional surfing. Some of the biggest and best waves and venues in the world. Worldwide attention and glory to be had.

This time of year these components converge in Hawaii for three premier contests for men and women, also known as the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

Starting tomorrow, the Triple Crown of Surfing officially begins with the waiting periods for both the Vans Hawaiian Pro (men) and Roxy Pro (women) at Haleiwa's Alii Beach. Two more stops follow, and when the sea spray finally settles from the series around mid-December, not only will a pair of Triple Crown champions be celebrated, but new world champions as well.

"Of the top 44 guys (in the world), 40 of them will be here. The other four aren't here because they're injured; otherwise they would be here," Triple Crown executive director Randy Rarick said at a press conference yesterday to kick off the series.

Indeed, the Triple Crown is the ultimate event, the ultimate showdown, in pro surfing. It provides the opportunity for surfers from around the world to prove themselves in the sport's pre-eminent proving ground: Hawaii, particularly the North Shore of Oahu. The best overall performer in the three events is awarded the Triple Crown championship.

What's more, the series also represents season's end for the Association of Surfing Professionals, and it regularly plays a huge role in deciding who becomes world champion. Such is the case this year, as both the men's and women's world title races are close enough that they'll be decided by how well the front-runners perform in the Triple Crown.

"If you can do well in Hawaii and be the world champion as well, obviously you cement your position (in history)," Rarick said. "And I think for some people, particularly the locals, the Triple Crown has more significance than even the world title."

From the men's side, defending world and Triple Crown champion Andy Irons, of Kauai, attended the press conference. Last year represented Irons' first championships of his career, and he is currently ranked No. 2 in the world, trailing leader Kelly Slater by 648 points (8,340 to 7,692).

Florida's Slater, who is not scheduled to arrive in Hawaii until tomorrow, is seeking an unprecedented seventh world title and his third Triple Crown championship.

While the first Triple Crown stop -- the Hawaiian Pro -- does not count toward the world rankings, the final two do: the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach (Nov. 24-Dec. 7), and the Xbox Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters at the Banzai Pipeline (Dec. 8-20).

Slater and Irons are tied for season-high honors with four wins apiece out of the 10 World Championship Tour contests so far. But Slater comes into the Triple Crown winning the last two events, while Irons has placed 33rd and fifth. Australia's Mick Fanning is another top contender, sitting at No. 3 with 7,080 points and with strong results in past Triple Crowns.

"Last year was the ultimate year for me -- everything went right when I needed," Irons, 25, said. "This year, some things have gone wrong. There have been turning points when I wished things could have gone right but they didn't. That's just how years go; you have good years and bad years. This year, I can still put in a good year. I'm looking forward to (the Triple Crown), it should be really exciting. The Triple Crown is like the Super Bowl."

On the women's side, only the final Triple Crown contest -- the Billabong Pro at Honolua Bay, Maui (Dec. 8-20) -- counts towards the world title. It is the only event of the Triple Crown not held on Oahu's North Shore.

Of course, just as with the men, all of the top women surfers will also be competing at the first two stops -- the Roxy Pro, and then the Turtle Bay Resort Pro at Turtle Bay (Nov. 24-Dec. 7) -- in hopes of winning the series. Australia's Neridah Falconer is the defending champion, and in the five previous women's Triple Crowns no Hawaii surfer has ever won.

This is something world No. 1 Keala Kennelly, originally from Kauai but currently residing in Honolulu, hopes to change this year, along with picking up her first world title. But hot on Kennelly's heels is five-time defending world champion Layne Beachley, currently ranked No. 2, only 36 points behind (3,084 to 3,120). The Australian Beachley is also the only woman to win more than one Triple Crown title (1997, '98).

"There's definitely a lot of pressure, but you have to learn to enjoy the pressure because pressure is a privilege," Kennelly, 25, said. "If I wasn't in first (place), I wouldn't have as much pressure, so it's definitely a privilege. ... (And) it's about time a Hawaiian won a Triple Crown ... but my main focus is the (world) title. If I win the Triple Crown along with the title, that would be great."

The three others with the best shot at the world title are Chelsea Georgeson (Australia), Heather Clark (South Africa) and Sofia Mulanovich (Peru).

"I know I can't rely on them losing for me to win," said the 31-year-old Beachley of the tight race, "but I'm quite relaxed, and I'm really looking forward to (the Triple Crown) and I hope we get some good waves."


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