Honolulu, HAWAII (Monday, Nov. 22, 2004) – Hawaii’s Sunny Garcia, 34, blazed a trail straight to the victory dais of the 20th anniversary Vans Hawaiian Pro today, to become surfing’s second only $1,000,000 prize money winner, breaking the barrier with his $15,000 winner’s check. His career prize money now stands at $1,000,355. This was Garcia’s fifth Vans Hawaiian Pro event win (1992, 1993, 2000, 2002) and puts him on track for a record sixth Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Series title. It his his first victory since his win here in 2002.
Garcia has been surfing longer than any of today’s other three finalists have been alive. Not one of them had even been born by the time he surfed his first competition here in 1978, aged eight. A mountain of experience is what really stood between him and his opponents today, evident in the relaxed yet calculated way he methodically won his way through the rounds and ultimately the final. Garcia has been competing professionally for 19 years and was world champion in 2000.
Second place and $8,000 went to Australian Phillip MacDonald, a 25-year-old from the southern New South Wales coast of Australia. It was his highest placing in a Triple Crown event after a third at the Pipeline Masters last year. Third place was relatively unknown Brazilian Bernardo Pigmeu, who was rated 32nd on the Association of Surfing Professionals (A.S.P.) World Qualifying Series (W.Q.S.) rankings coming into the event. Following today’s result, he’s now rated 22nd and has a chance to qualify for the 2005 elite World Championship Tour (W.C.T.) next week at the final W.Q.S. event – the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach. Pigmeu, 21, won $6,000. Fourth place was Bruce Irons (Kauai), 25, who was in brilliant form leading up to the final but suffered a broken board, broken skin and broken momentum after a hideous wipeout on his first ride. He took home $4,000 and as one of the best all-around Hawaii surfers, has a great shot at challenging Garcia for the Triple Crown.
Excellent waves continued to pour through the right-hand break at Haleiwa today, many hefty sets pushing through at around eight feet. With so much water moving on the reef, the extra muscle Garcia is famous for paid major dividends. At 209 pounds, Garcia was 33 pounds heavier than the next largest finalist, (MacDonald, 176 pounds) and threw it around to his advantage. The amount of power and speed he was able to apply to every one of his turns could not be matched by a single turn of anyone else today. Add to that a systematic approach to waiting for the best waves on offer in every heat before shredding them to shore, and the result was beyond question.
While he was the last of the four finalists to post a ride in the final, once he was riding, the show was his. His first wave scored 8.17 points out of 10. His second, 8.57 points, for a two wave total of 16.74. None of the other finalists caught a single wave as good as either of Garcia’s.
“I’ve had a long relationship with this wave,” said Garcia of his history with Haleiwa. “It’s for sure my favorite wave.
“I love winning. I still have the desire to win. I always know coming home to Hawaii that I can win here. I’m going to try winning all the events. I’d especially like to win at Pipeline. I’ve placed second there four times.
“I’ve been out of shape all year (after a a year of injury in 2003) and trying to get back into shape as the year’s gone on. Last year I was starting to doubt myself after two knee surgeries, so it’s nice to be winning again.
“As for the Triple Crown, I’ve always said the next best thing in surfing to a world title is the Triple Crown title. But then lots of guys have won world titles and very few of them have won a Triple Crown title. No disrespect to them, but if you can’t cut it in Hawaii, you can’t cut it at all.”
Garcia won Triple Crown titles in 1992, ’93, ’94, ’99, and 2000. In the 29-year history of A.S.P. world champions. Only five of them, including Garcia, have won Triple Crown titles.
“Sunny’s pretty hard to beat out here if he gets the waves,” said MacDonald. “This is always the toughest of all the W.Q.S. events in the world. So coming in second today, this is probably my best shot at winning the Triple Crown.”
Brazil’s Pigmeu was ecstatic with his result – the best of his career by a long shot. He has never reached a final in three years on the W.Q.S. tour.
“I just want to thank my Hawaiian ‘ohana’ Jamie O’Brien,” said Pigmeu. “I’ve been coming to Hawaii for a few years now and Jamie has pushed me a lot.”
For Irons, the final result was a disappointing one, given how solid his run had been all the way to the final.
“I broke my board on my first wave,” said Irons. “My foot just went straight through it and the nose of the board hit me in the chest. I lost time coming in to change boards and then the back-up board I had was the wrong one. By then, I’d lost it.
“For sure I’ve got my eye on the Triple Crown. It’s been a dream since I was kid. I’d love to win it.”
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing now pulls up stakes and relocates to Sunset Beach for the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing, November 26 to December 7. The outlook for the next swell has this Friday looking favorable to a start at Sunset. The third and final event of the Series is the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters, December 8-20.