NORTH SHORE, Oahu, Hawaii — Wednesday, November 12, 2003 — In what portends to be one of the best world title showdowns in professional surfing history, the 2003 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing will determine the men’s and women’s World Championship Tour (WCT) and coveted Vans Triple Crown champions, Nov. 12 to Dec. 20.
With less than 650 points separating six-time Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) world champion Kelly Slater (Florida) and reigning champ Andy Irons (Hawaii), all eyes are pointing to a possible showdown at the Xbox Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters (Dec. 8-20 at Banzai Pipeline). The Pipeline Masters is the world’s longest running (33 years) and most prestigious pro surfing competition, and the finale of the $750,000 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Although Australians Mick Fanning and Taj Burrow are still mathematically in the race, the men’s battle essentially boils down to Irons and Slater, both previous Pipeline and Vans Triple Crown champions. With only two “Grand Prix” WCT’s remaining, the $250,000 Rip Curl Cup (Nov. 24 – Dec. 7 at Sunset Beach) and the $250,000 Pipeline Masters, Slater leads the race followed closely by Irons, Fanning and Burrow.
Among several possible scenarios, should Slater bow out early at Sunset and Irons finish well…then the Pipeline showdown becomes reality. If Slater were to win the Rip Curl Cup, Irons would have to finish second in the event to keep his chances alive at Pipeline. If Slater records a first at Sunset, he would only need a fifth at Pipeline to be crowned world champion. Even if Irons were to win both events, Slater could still wrap up an unprecedented seventh title by finishing second in each WCT. Fanning and Burrow are on the outside looking in, each needing to win both events and hope Slater finishes no better than seventh in either.
The women’s race is more wide open. Five competitors remain in the world title hunt including current ratings leader Keala Kennelly (Hawaii), five-time world champion Layne Beachley (Australia), Chelsea Georgeson (Australia), Heather Clark (South Africa) and Sofia Mulanovich (Peru). Kennelly is in the driver’s seat for her maiden title, needing to finish second or better in the final women’s WCT, the $60,000 Billabong Pro (Dec. 8-20 at Honolua Bay, Maui) to clinch the crown. Otherwise, she must finish ahead of the other four or the potential scenarios get complicated and anything could happen.
Also on the line over the next month are the ASP’s World Qualifying Series (WQS) titles, stepladders to the elite WCT. “Beginning today with the men’s Vans Hawaiian Pro and the women’s Roxy Pro (both Nov. 12-23 at Haleiwa) the world’s top professional surfers are competing for virtually every major title in the sport,” said Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Executive Director Randy Rarick.
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 the support of Vans, the Xbox video game system from Microsoft, Mountain Dew, Ford Trucks, Right Guard Xtreme Sport, Fox Sports Net, Surfing Magazine and NBC Sports.