Garcia Claims Fourth Vans Hawaiian Pro Haleiwa Title

Garcia Claims Fourth Vans Hawaiian Pro Haleiwa Title
Thursday, November 21, 2002 – (Honolulu, HAWAII) – In what will go down as one of the best days of waves and competition in the history of the Vans Hawaiian Pro, Hawaii’s Sunny Garcia claimed his fourth Hawaiian Pro title at Haleiwa today, taking an early lead on the overall Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series ratings. Garcia, who previously won this event in 1992, 1993, and 2000, led the 35-minute final from start to finish to defeat Tom Whitaker (Australia), Jake Paterson (Australia) and defending Vans Hawaiian Pro champion Andy Irons (Hawaii). Garcia, 32, is a five-time Vans Triple Crown Series champion and has his eye set on a sixth title. His win earned him $10,000.

Waves ranged from 12 to occasional 20-foot face heights today and the quarter final heats produced the highest scores of the event. Despite losing in semi-final one to Paterson and Irons, six-time world champion Kelly Slater posted a near-perfect heat score in the quarters – 19.73 points out of 20, with a couple of impossibly long tube-rides and giant top-to-bottom turns (10.0 and 9.73 point rides). Similarly, current world number one Irons had a crowd-filled beach fixated with his combination of powering round-house re-entries and vertical turns.

But ultimately, the day belonged to Garcia. Overcoming a two-month old knee injury that sees him competing with torn ligaments, lower back cramps and a minor gash to the head he sustained in the quarter finals after a collision with his surfboard, the pain was all but forgotten by the conclusion of the event. Overall scores for the final had Garcia on 15.5, Whitaker with 12.6, 10.73 for Paterson, and 10.6 for Irons.

“I was fortunate to get two good waves right at the beginning of the final and then the waves got bumpy and the scores kind of dropped,” said Garcia. “My first wave was a deep barrel and that got me going.

“I’m almost speechless. It feels insane to win a fourth time here. I’ve been surfing here since 1979 and it really is one of the best waves on the North Shore.

“My knee was bothering me and my back was killing me, but I kept making heats and I was just stoked to make it to the final. To win was unreal.

“I’d love a sixth Vans Triple Crown title, but for now I’m just looking forward to the next two events to get my requalification back on track. I missed four events earlier in the year and I’m lingering on the back side of requalifying for the Top 44 for next year. I’ve been in the top 16 almost my whole 17-year career, and it’s a goal of mine to stay there.”

For runner-up Whitaker, a 23-year-old from Sydney, Australia, today was a milestone in more ways than one. His final finish sealed him a berth in the elite 2003 ASP World Championship Tour lineup, which will be his WCT debut, earned him a wildcard into next week’s Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach, and saw him surf against some of his childhood heros.

“It’s been mind-blowing,” said Whitaker, who won $5,000 today. “It was awesome to surf against the top guys, take a few down and gain some confidence. I think paddling out (in the quarter finals) with Sunny and Mark Occhilupo was the highlight for me. I’ve looked up to them since I was a little kid.” Whitaker placed first in that quarter final heat to defeat his heroes.

A six-star World Qualifying Series event, the Vans Hawaiian Pro is the final stop on the WQS circuit for 2002. Jake Paterson’s third place finish in the final was enough for him to win the World Qualifying Series ratings for this year. He earned $4,000 for third place today.

Fourth placed Irons was unable to successfully defend the Vans Hawaiian Pro title he won here last year, but his level of surfing consolidated the expectation that he will finish this year out in Hawaii as the A.S.P. world champion for 2002. Today he won $3,000.

“It was incredible to make the final when the waves were this big and this goodd,” said 24-year-old Irons. “It’s been unreal coming home as the number one and I’d love to finish off the year with a Vans Triple Crown title. I’ve never won it before but it would be a dream come true. The Triple Crown is one of the biggest honors you can achieve in surfing.”

The swell is forecast to remain in the eight-to-10 foot range tomorrow, and the first leg of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing will culminate with the women’s Roxy Pro final and the final of the Davidoff Cool Water Xpression Session.

A satellite feed of highlights from all three of these events at Haleiwa will go out tomorrow. A separate satellite announcement will provide coordinates and details.

The Vans Triple Crown Series features the world’s top athletes competing in three championship events in each of the following sports: Skateboarding, Wakeboarding, Surfing, Snowboarding, BMX and Freestyle Motocross. The Series is made possible through proud sponsors Vans, Xbox, Mountain Dew, Ford Trucks, Right Guard Xtreme Sport, Fox Sports Net, Surfing Magazine and NBC Sports.

For daily updates, event status and other information:www.triplecrownofsurfing.com
RESULTS:
Vans Hawaiian Pro
Final (4-man heat, first 2 advance, top 2 wave scores count in total.)
1. Sunny Garcia (Hawaii) 15.5; 2. Tom Whitaker (Australia) 12.6; 3. Jake Paterson (Australia) 10.73; 4. Andy Irons (Hawaii) 10.6.

Semi-Finals:
H1: Jake Paterson (Aus) 18.33; Andy Irons (Haw) 18.03; Joel Parkinson (Aus) 15.46; Kelly Slater (USA) 14.57
H2: Sunny Garcia (Haw) 15.27; Tom Whitaker (Aus) 14.87; Mick Fanning (Aus) 14.1; Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.3

Quarter Finals:
H1: Jake Paterson (Aus) 16.83; Andy Irons (Haw) 16.3; Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 11.73; Naohisa Ogawa (Jpn) 9.47
H2: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.73; Joel Parkinson (Aus) 16.43; Luke Stedman (Aus) 14.77; Phillip MacDonald (Aus) 13.5
H3: Mick Fanning (Aus) 17.43; Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.6; Todd Prestage (Aus) 11.47; Chris Davidson (Aus) 5.37
H4: Tom Whitaker (Aus) 15.33; Sunny Garcia (Haw) 12.84; Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 12.33; Jason Bogle (Haw) 11.13