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Conditions ideal at Triple Crown

By Dayton Morinaga

Special to the Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 10:23 a.m. HST, Nov 16, 2010

Sunny Garcia returned to the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing with a vengeance yesterday.

That makes him even more of a threat to add to his collection of Triple Crown trophies this season, even at age 40.

Garcia, who owns a record six Triple Crown championships, was one of several Hawaii standouts during the opening day of the Reef Hawaiian Pro men's contest yesterday at Haleiwa Alii Beach. The Reef Hawaiian Pro is the first of three contests in the Triple Crown series.

Garcia was in position to win his seventh Triple Crown title last year, but was disqualified from the last contest when he showed up a few minutes late for his heat.

"I'm still a little bitter about it," said Garcia, who is from Waianae. "But this year is a different year. I'm not coming into it any other way than every year I've done it. I'm coming here to win."

Wave-face heights ranged from 10 to 20 feet yesterday, and conditions were ideal, especially for a renowned power surfer like Garcia.

"It's perfect," he said. "I can't see it starting off in a better way."

Garcia also entered yesterday's action still recovering from the shocking death of Kauai's Andy Irons. Garcia attended the memorial service on Kauai on Sunday.

"To go through all those emotions and then finally going over to Kauai and saying goodbye, it's hard," he said. "I think after being on Kauai and seeing how much love everybody had for Andy, and having a chance to say my goodbyes kind of lightened the load a little. Now I can come here and try to do well for him."

Virtually the entire contingent of Hawaii surfers shared similar sentiments yesterday, and many of them fared well. Of the 26 total surfers advancing through yesterday's second round, 13 were from Hawaii.

Sean Moody of Haleiwa won an exciting heat, scoring an 8.73 (out of 10) as the final horn sounded to win the heat.

"I needed that wave, and it came through," he said. "On a day like this, it's so good, it's kind of easy to line up and get a good (wave). But when you surf here a lot, year in and year out, it still gives you a little bit of an advantage."

Hank Gaskell of Hana, Maui, was another standout, scoring a two-wave total of 15.97 (out of 20). He described the conditions as "the best Haleiwa I've ever surfed."

Gaskell is recovering from a groin injury, and was hoping to "go a little easy" in his heat. Instead, he paddled into several of the best waves of the day and unleashed a series of impressive turns on each ride.

"I was scared I might re-injure myself, but the waves were going off, so I couldn't help myself," he said. "It's so rip-able out there, it's incredible."

Other standouts from Hawaii yesterday were Torrey Meister, Dege O'Connell, John John Florence and Makuakai Rothman.

The top-seeded surfers received byes through yesterday's opening heats. Haleiwa's Joel Centeio -- who won the Reef Hawaiian Pro last year -- is seeded into the fourth round.

Also yesterday, the first round of the Reef Clash of the Legends was completed. Former world champions Garcia of Hawaii, Tom Carroll and Mark Occhilupo of Australia, and Tom Curren of California are the selected participants. They will compete together in three separate rounds, and the best performer after those three rounds will be the winner.

Curren took the lead after yesterday's first round, followed by Occhilupo, Garcia and Carroll. Garcia received an interference penalty after paddling into the same wave as Curren.

"I thought we were going to have a friendly heat, but I guess not," Garcia said.

The Reef Hawaiian Pro could continue today, conditions permitting. For updated information visit or call 596-7873.

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