Defending His Crown
Vans Triple Crown of Surfing draws the world’s best surfers to the
North Shore each fall. The
Rip Curl Cup, held at Sunset Beach, is second of the three events.
Last year, the wave faces were sixteen to twenty feet.
There were great rides – powerful bottom turns and graceful
arcs – with wild cheers from the spectators.
lots of groans and wincing at the wipeouts.
In Sunset’s shifting peaks, it’s always easy to misjudge
a wave. In addition,
strong, gusting tradewinds that day were catching surfer’s boards
as they took off. One-third of a mile out, the World Championship Tour’s best
surfers were getting hammered. By the end of the 2nd heat, local boy Myles Padaca
was also thrashed. He
had fought his way into the Rip Curl the hard way, by out-surfing 31
other hungry competitors in the prior qualifying round to seize one
of the Rip Curl’s only two wild card slots.
It had taken a lot out of him.
was beat up and aching. But
he sensed that this was his day.
He had started out as a long shot, and then had taken third
place in the first Triple Crown event, the Hawaiian Pro at
Haleiwa’s Alii Beach Park. Now, going into the Rip Curl’s final heat, he was suddenly
important, he was in his own backyard.
Sunset Beach is his home break.
No one knows it better.
he proved it to the world that day, beating Australian Mick Lowe in
an epic final heat. He
became the first non-World Championship Tour surfer ever to win the
Rip Curl Cup.
didn’t place in the Triple Crown’s last event, the Xbox Gerry
Lopez Pipeline Masters. Nevertheless,
his third place in the Hawaiian Pro plus his first place in the Rip
Curl proved unbeatable, making Myles Padaca the 2001 Triple Crown of
been said that Myles “surprised everyone” by winning the Triple
Crown, but there were a few locals who weren’t at all surprised. At 31, Myles is a classic example of someone who’s worked
his whole life to be an “overnight success.”
could win again this year. After
all, Sunny Garcia won the Triple Crown three years in a row.
So it can be done.
while Myles is the current champ, he’ll also have to play the role
of the come-from-behind kid again this year, because he broke his
leg last January and missed most of this season.
The accident occurred in a tow-in session at Phantoms, and
the broken bones got mangled while the jet ski dragged him out of
the impact zone with his broken leg flopping behind him.
As a result, the leg didn’t heal properly in its cast,
requiring further surgery after three months, so Myles was out of
the water for six months in all.
Nevertheless, he’s had four months now to surf his way back
Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which will be held between Nov. 12 and
Dec. 20, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. This longest running and most famous professional surfing
competition in the world boasts a record purse of $750,000.
the world’s top surfers, there’s nothing remotely like the
Triple Crown. Much more
than money is at stake. Sanctioned
by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), the Triple Crown
is the culmination of the World Championship Tour -- the last chance
to score points toward this year’s men’s and women’s world
titles, and to lock down one of the coveted spots on next year’s
Word Cup Tour.
prizes and ratings, surfers compete here, in the world’s mecca of
surfing, for prestige and the respect of their peers.
Triple Crown Executive Director Randy Rarick explains:
“other venues have fast tubes, or occasional big waves, and
intense competition, but the Triple Crown has it all.
It’s the most demanding series of events in surfing.”
surfers are especially proud of their ability to surf big waves.
It’s the local boys’ edge in competing with top-ranked
surfers, whose venues on the World Championship Tour include a lot
of smaller breaks. Myles
Padaca showed us that edge in last year’s Rip Curl event.
When asked about what conditions he’s hoping for this year,
he smiles and says, “We like it big.”
like it big, too, and the Triple Crown never fails to deliver.
For us, the Triple Crown is like having the World Series
staged in our backyard – only with free seats.
Shore locals smile when their mainland friends talk about the change
of seasons. We have
dramatic season changes here, too.
In the Fall, the great north Pacific ocean comes alive like
an awakening giant. The
booming shore break reverberates up the bluff at Pupukea, and the
snorkelers and divers flee Shark’s Cove.
As the Triple Crown draws near, the competitors start to
arrive, from South Africa, Brazil, Australia, drifting into town
like gunfighters in a western movie.
And the North Shore, so sleepy in the summer, almost crackles
with excitement and tension, as though there were static electricity
in the air.
share the excitement and see the show.
Starting on Nov. 12, call 637-6376 or 638-5024 to find out if
one of the events is on that day, and our local TV newscasts usually
have good forecasts for when the surf will be up – and that’s
when the contests will be held.
Hawaiian Pro, held at Haleiwa Alii Beach Park (turn left before
Haleiwa Joe’s restuarant) will be the Triple Crown’s first
event. Haleiwa’s waves are not as life-threatening as those at
Sunset or Pipeline, which means competitors will be trying more high
performance, high risk maneuvers.
This event is also fun to watch because it includes the
Davidoff Cool Water Xpression Session, not part of the Hawaiian Pro
scoring but offering $10,000 for the most radical aerial and other
Rip Curl Pro is second in the Triple Crown series. Held at beautiful Sunset Beach, this event features big,
unpredictable waves breaking over an area the size of two football
a ride goes well at Sunset, the series of turns looks graceful,
almost easy, from the beach. Less
visible is what happens in a wipeout.
First, you hit the water with the combined speed of the wave
plus a two-story fall. A
split-second later, you’re hit with tons of water, like having a
swimming pool of water dropped on you from twenty feet up.
The water explodes in all directions, and it feels like
you’ve been tackled by five NFL linebackers at once, each trying
to tear off an arm or a leg or your head.
Then, as you’re tumbled and spun deep in the grip of the
white water, you have long seconds to think about when you’ll get
your next breath -- and whether your board, unseen, is perhaps
snapping back at you pointy end first that very moment.
Xbox Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters, last event in the Triple Crown,
pits the world’s best surfers against the most famous wave in the
world. At Pipeline
(just left of Ehukai Beach Park), big ocean swells march in,
relatively undisturbed, and then suddenly encounter a very shallow
reef very close to shore. This results in a hollow, break (shaped like a pipe) which is
very fast, with wipeouts even more ferocious than at Sunset because
of the shallow reef. With
the action less than 150 yards away, every spot on the beach is like
a ringside seat. The
waves break with a thunderous roar, the ground vibrates under your
feet, and danger hangs in the air.
year, an experienced surfer died at Pipeline, though not in a Triple
Crown event. Even with
lifeguards and fellow surfers trying to help him, he was torn from
their grasp in the next set, and his body was never recovered.
In last year’s Pipeline Masters, Michael Ho dislocated his
had lots of injuries in Triple Crown events over the years,” says
Randy Rarick, “but no fatalities yet, fortunately.”
Padaca knows all about the dangers of surfing.
When he was 16, long before his last leg break, his board hit
him at Makaha and broke his leg.
Injuries come with the territory in his line of work, and he
shrugs it off. “Everyone
pays their dues,” he says matter-of-factly.
now, he has no time to worry about injuries; his thoughts are on the
big question: can he pull off a repeat of last year’s victory?
Although his first place at the 2001 Rip Curl Pro assures him
of being in the field at Sunset this year, he will once again have
to fight his way into the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa and the Pipeline
Masters by beating all the talented, up-and-coming surfers in the
once he’s in the event, he’ll be up against the likes of
five-time Triple Crown champ Sunny Garcia, twice-champ Kelly Slater,
and the Irons brothers, Andy and Bruce, who won last year’s
Hawaiian Pro and Pipeline Masters.
projects focus, seriousness of purpose, and a level of confidence
that only a champ can have. “The
field is stronger than ever this year,” he smiles, “but
there’s nothing like winning to make you confident.”
We’re rootin’ for you, Myles.