The 2004 WCT Preview – Sunny Garcia gives his opinion on next year’s race.

After nearly two decades of service on the WCT, Sunny Garcia considers the tour his home away from home—he basically grew up on it. In past WCT preview pieces, Sunny felt the media was passing judgment on people they didn’t necessarily know, on topics they weren’t experts on. Very outspoken himself, the 2000 world champ has battled with every one of the 44 and knows what it takes to succeed on the grueling, often dangerous world tour.

When we offered him the chance to give his view, he accepted the challenge gladly. “I just want to say good things about everybody, because of guys like Sam George, Matt George, Matt Warshaw, and Ross Garrett—f—king kooks!” said Garcia. “I don’t want to be one of those guys. I want to say good things about everybody, because everybody’s worked really hard to get to where they’re at. I don’t want to be one of the wannabes, never will be, never was (one of those) guys who writes shit about people. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been on tour nineteen years, and this is my family. P.S., I didn’t forget Nick Carroll’s a kook, too.”

1. Andy Irons

Age: 25

Home: Kaua’i, Hawai’i

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $677,108

Best career finish: 1 (2002, 2003)

Sunny: “I can never put into words how proud I am of Andy—of how far he’s come to win two world titles. The Andy we knew was the Andy that used to go off and party and was just a wreck, and that was just a couple years ago. The kid put his head down, grounded himself, and went after his dreams. When he won the first world title, it was all great. To win a world title is hard to do, but to actually come back the next year and surf better than the year before … He was actually hunted down by six-time World Champ Kelly Slater, passed in the ratings after leading all year long, and he went into Hawai’i having to win. Not only did he win, but Andy beat Kelly in the final at the Pipe Masters, which Kelly’s won five times. That was an achievement I don’t think any other surfer will achieve ever—this kid is incredible.”

Projected finish: “Definitely gonna be a front-runner next year for the world title again—definitely gonna be a front-runner for the world title for a lot of years to come. I never thought anybody would give Kelly a good run for his six world titles, but I think Andy’s capable of doing that.”

2. Kelly Slater

Age: 32

Home: Cocoa Beach, Florida

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $1,013,655

Best career finish: 1 (1992, 1994—1998)

Sunny: “Had it been anybody else going against Kelly for the world title, I would’ve put all my money or everything I ever owned on Kelly, because this guy is driven by phenomenal amounts of I don’t even know what to call it. I would love no more than to talk shit about Kelly, but we go way back and we’re really good friends and really competitive against each other. I love and respect the guy, but I’m really happy Andy beat him. Not that I wanted him to be beaten, but I was more afraid that had Kelly won the world title last year, he might have retired and gone away, and that would’ve been really bad for surfing. Being that he did lose, I know he’ll be there next year trying just as hard and making everything interesting—you can never count Kelly out, never.”

Projected finish: “I would assume Kelly’s gonna be a front-runner in surfing for a long time to come or as long as he wants to be there.”

3. Taj Burrow

Age: 25

Home: Yallingup, Western Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $521,422

Best career finish: 2 (1999)

Sunny: “Taj has been one of those guys who should’ve been world champ a long time ago. He just never seems to be able to get his contest act together. Every free surf or ‘QS event, he always seems to be surfing really welland in the ‘CTs, it seems like Taj Burrow world champ or Taj Burrow ‘QS guy. The difference is the way he surfs sometimes—either he could be doing well, or you don’t even recognize him as the same person.”

Projected finish: “I’d say he’s gonna be competing for the world title, but if I had to put money—if it was a couple years ago, I would’ve. He wouldn’t be my first choice to win the world title next year.”

4. Mick Fanning

Age: 22

Home: Tweed Heads, Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $335,535

Best career finish: 5 (2002, 2003)

Sunny: “Mick’s one of the fastest surfers I’ve ever seen. He, too, is hot and cold. He’s either surfing really, really well and hard to beat or makes mistakes where he shouldn’t be.”

Projected finish: “Definitely gonna be a world title contender next year and the years to come as well.”

5. Joel Parkinson

Age: 22

Home: Kirra, Queensland, Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $353,800

Best career finish: 2 (2002)

Sunny: “This kid—I watch him surf the best I’ve ever seen anybody surf at J-Bay during a heat. Words can never describe how good this kid surfs—incredible, really fluid. It almost seems like he’s not trying, and at times maybe he’s not. Surfing-wise, this kid is definitely world champion material, but how bad he wants it inside, I don’t know.”

Projected finish: “He’s gonna be a world title contender for many years to come.”

6. Kieren Perrow

Age: 27

Home: Byron Bay, Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $227,900

Best career finish: 6 (2003)

Sunny: “Definitely a big surprise. If you met this guy, you’d never know he charges the way he charges. Had a good year last year—surfed really well. Gave Andy and Kelly and everybody a good run in the beginning of the year, and I think towards the end the wheels kind of fell off. Nevertheless, it was a good year for him.”

Projected finish: “I think if he’s able to parlay that over until next year, we should see some good things from him. I should assume he’ll be a title contender for next year.”

7. Taylor Knox

Age: 32

Home: Carlsbad, California

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $526,162

Best career finish: 4 (2001)

Sunny: “Taylor’s another one of those guys that would be at the top of the list where results definitely do not reflect how good he surfs. This is the only guy I would put money on to beat Kelly on any given day. He does some boneheaded maneuvers during heats, takes the wrong waves—just makes mistakes he shouldn’t make for how long he’s been on tour. If Taylor can become a heat machine, live to surf heats, go out, and make no mistakes, he could be a world champion for sure. If Taylor keeps making those Taylor mistakes, then he’s just gonna be in the top fifteen rather than in the higher up.”

Projected finish: “Capable of winning a world title, but also capable of finishing anywhere from one to 28.”

8. Mick Lowe

Age: 26

Home: Port Kembla, New South Wales, Australia

Stance: Goofy

Career earnings: $403,920

Best career finish: 6 (2002)

Sunny: “Does well in all the big-wave events—does well at Sunset, Pipe, Teahupo’o, Fiji, and seems to have a little harder time in the beach breaks, along with all of us other big guys. Mick is another surfer that his results don’t reflect how good a surfer he is.”

Projected finish: “Mick will be a top-fifteen guy. I’m just going off past results with Mick—you never know what everybody’s motivations are.”

9. Cory Lopez

Age: 26

Home: Indian Rocks Beach, Florida

Stance: Goofy

Career earnings: $438,335

Best career finish: 3 (2001)

Sunny: “Cory’s hardcore. I know from the last year, he’s been spending more time training and getting more addicted to it. Cory can do airs, he can do gauges, he can surf Pipeline—he can do it all, and he’s consistent. There’re no ifs, ands, or buts about Cory, the only way you’re gonna beat this guy is to go out and be on your ‘A’ game. He’s always gonna go out there, get good waves, and surf them good.”

Projected finish: “I’d be surprised if he didn’t finish in the top five.”

10. Dean Morrison

Age: 23

Home: Coolangatta, Queensland, Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $187,650

Best career finish: 10

Sunny: “Dean Morrison is a quiet kind of guy until he drinks—then he comes out of his shell. A great surfer—should be doing a lot better than he has. I watched him surf at Kirra and surf the best heats that you could possibly surf through that event. He’s like these other guys, hot and cold. If he feels good and everything’s going well, he does well. And if he isn’t (feeling good), then he doesn’t.”

Projected finish: “I would say Dean would be a top-twenty guy. Until he can get everything sorted out, he’s just gonna be finishing in the middle until he can get in his groove.”

11. Jake Paterson

Age: 31

Home: Yallingup, Western Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $564,445

Best career finish: 5 (2000, 2001)

Sunny: “I don’t know what to say about Jake. He’s driven to do well, driven to do well for others on tour. Always consistent, especially when the waves are big at Sunset, at Pipeline, at J-Bay—he can do it all.”

Projected finish: “I would say Jake will for sure be in the top ten just because he’s hungry—he definitely deserves to be there.”

12. Shea Lopez

Age: 29

Home: Florida

Stance: Goofy

Career earnings: $439,332

Best career finish: 11 (2000, 2002)

Sunny: “He’s hungry. Once upon a time he was one of the younger guys. Now he’s a little older and wiser. I know he’s capable of doing a lot better than he has. This year I’m not expecting him to do all that great, because I know he just went into surgery for his knee, because he blew his knee out (at the Pipe Masters).”

Projected finish: “I know it’s hard and depends on how bad that injury is and how quick he can come back. I would say he’d do well on the second half of the tour.”

13. Phil MacDonald

Age: 24

Home: Tomakin, New South Wales, Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $196,950

Best career finish: 13 (2003)

Sunny: “This kid looks big, looks thick—really powerful. He’s not that big of a guy, because every time I stand next to him he’s kind of small. I would say this kid is one of my favorite kids to watch on tour. I like to see kids that come on tour and just surf powerful, and Phil is definitely the epitome of power surfing.”

Projected finish: “If the waves are good, I would expect Phil to do really well—I would say for sure in the top twenty.”

14. Damien Hobgood

Age: 24

Home: Satellite Beach, Florida

Stance: Goofy

Career earnings: $304,975

Best career finish: 10 (2001)

Sunny: “He and C.J. surf exactly the same—I don’t know why Damien doesn’t do as well as C.J. He always seems to be living in C.J.’s shadow. If he could get some good luck and get some things going, I don’t see why he wouldn’t have the same success as C.J. A great guy, surfs great, definitely motivated. I’m sure he’s even mor>Age: 26

Home: Indian Rocks Beach, Florida

Stance: Goofy

Career earnings: $438,335

Best career finish: 3 (2001)

Sunny: “Cory’s hardcore. I know from the last year, he’s been spending more time training and getting more addicted to it. Cory can do airs, he can do gauges, he can surf Pipeline—he can do it all, and he’s consistent. There’re no ifs, ands, or buts about Cory, the only way you’re gonna beat this guy is to go out and be on your ‘A’ game. He’s always gonna go out there, get good waves, and surf them good.”

Projected finish: “I’d be surprised if he didn’t finish in the top five.”

10. Dean Morrison

Age: 23

Home: Coolangatta, Queensland, Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $187,650

Best career finish: 10

Sunny: “Dean Morrison is a quiet kind of guy until he drinks—then he comes out of his shell. A great surfer—should be doing a lot better than he has. I watched him surf at Kirra and surf the best heats that you could possibly surf through that event. He’s like these other guys, hot and cold. If he feels good and everything’s going well, he does well. And if he isn’t (feeling good), then he doesn’t.”

Projected finish: “I would say Dean would be a top-twenty guy. Until he can get everything sorted out, he’s just gonna be finishing in the middle until he can get in his groove.”

11. Jake Paterson

Age: 31

Home: Yallingup, Western Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $564,445

Best career finish: 5 (2000, 2001)

Sunny: “I don’t know what to say about Jake. He’s driven to do well, driven to do well for others on tour. Always consistent, especially when the waves are big at Sunset, at Pipeline, at J-Bay—he can do it all.”

Projected finish: “I would say Jake will for sure be in the top ten just because he’s hungry—he definitely deserves to be there.”

12. Shea Lopez

Age: 29

Home: Florida

Stance: Goofy

Career earnings: $439,332

Best career finish: 11 (2000, 2002)

Sunny: “He’s hungry. Once upon a time he was one of the younger guys. Now he’s a little older and wiser. I know he’s capable of doing a lot better than he has. This year I’m not expecting him to do all that great, because I know he just went into surgery for his knee, because he blew his knee out (at the Pipe Masters).”

Projected finish: “I know it’s hard and depends on how bad that injury is and how quick he can come back. I would say he’d do well on the second half of the tour.”

13. Phil MacDonald

Age: 24

Home: Tomakin, New South Wales, Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $196,950

Best career finish: 13 (2003)

Sunny: “This kid looks big, looks thick—really powerful. He’s not that big of a guy, because every time I stand next to him he’s kind of small. I would say this kid is one of my favorite kids to watch on tour. I like to see kids that come on tour and just surf powerful, and Phil is definitely the epitome of power surfing.”

Projected finish: “If the waves are good, I would expect Phil to do really well—I would say for sure in the top twenty.”

14. Damien Hobgood

Age: 24

Home: Satellite Beach, Florida

Stance: Goofy

Career earnings: $304,975

Best career finish: 10 (2001)

Sunny: “He and C.J. surf exactly the same—I don’t know why Damien doesn’t do as well as C.J. He always seems to be living in C.J.’s shadow. If he could get some good luck and get some things going, I don’t see why he wouldn’t have the same success as C.J. A great guy, surfs great, definitely motivated. I’m sure he’s even more motivated because his twin brother won a world title and he hasn’t. I would say that brotherly competition will drive him to do a lot better than he has.”

Projected finish: “The guy’s definitely capable of finishing in the top ten.”

15. Danny Wills

Age: 28

Home: Byron Bay, Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $407,385

Best career finish: 3 (1998)

Sunny: “One of the most fluid, most perfect surfers you’ll ever see surf a point break. When he first came on, I remember he almost won the world title—the one year he surfed really good in small waves. He’s also hot and cold. Danny looks to be capable of winning a world title one moment and maybe not the next.”

Projected finish: “He’s gonna be a top-fifteen guy or giving everybody a good run—keeping everybody honest, for sure.”

16. Mark Occhilupo

Age: 37

Home: Queensland, Australia

Stance: Goofy

Career earnings: $820,688

Best career finish: 1 (1999)

Sunny: “The most inspirational surfer ever. Definitely not slowing down with age. Not anywhere close to slowing down. I watched him surf last year in the final against Deano (Morrison). Occy surfed really well, and it was an inspiration to see that after all these years that he was still there and still surfing good and probably still surfing just as strong now—in fact, surfing better now than he did back when.”

Projected finish: “I would say Occy’s definitely gonna be top ten, if he’s able to keep up the enthusiasm for being there. Definitely giving everybody a good run for that world title.”


17. Richie Lovett

Age: 31

Home: Manly, New South Wales, Australia

Stance: Regular

Career earnings: $448,850

Best career finish: 15 (2001)

Sunny: “Another guy that I think his results and ratings haven’t justified (his surfing ability). One of the best surfers on tour, just hot and cold also. Either ripping and ready to win, or can’t put it together. It was nice to see him win the Boost contest—his first event ever.”

Projected finish: “Now that Richie’s got one event win under his belt, if he can keep that pace of surfing, I think he’ll be for sure a top-ten guy. If not, he’ll be hovering around the middle—anywhere from fifteen to 25.”

18. Luke Egan

Age: 35

Home: Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Stance: Goofy

Career earnings: $681,595

Best career finish: 2 (2000)

Sunny: “I would go out and say Luke is the most powerful guy on tour—even more powerful than Occy. Some of the turns he does are just incredible, let alone how big he is and how he’s able to do airs and surf small waves the way he does. One of the best all-around surfers in the world. The way the waves are on tour these days and the places we go, they just suit bigger guys who surf good waves. Teahupo’o, Fiji, and Mundaka, Luke rips at all these places, as well as takes apart places like J-Bay and Sunset.”

Projected finish: “Luke’s for sure a top-ten guy, and if the motivation is there, he’ll be contending for the world title.”

19. C.J. Hobgood

Age: 24

Home: Satellite Beach, Florida

Stance: Goofy

Career earnings: $373,958

Best career finish: 1 (2001)

Sunny: “I know he injured himself at the motocross event last year (laughs). He’s able to go out and win, but trying to defend your title injured is not a good thing. I know that he’s still hurt—his healing went bad.”

Projected finish: “If he’s unable to get his injury behind him, I’m gonna say he’s a bottom-twenty guy, just because the injury’s gonna set him back for the first couple events. But if he can start