Approaching its 25th Anniversary this winter, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is a timeline of ultimate surfing master Derek Ho’s life. From sandcastles to fatherhood, first wipeouts to world class titles, it has all happened on Oahu’s North Shore during this prestigious series of events.
This winter, Ho will be competing in his 25th Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series. At 43 years of age, he’s still a contender – particularly when it comes to the Billabong Pipeline Masters. When the Pipe Masters began in 1971, Ho was 7-years-old, playing in the sand and dreaming of a day when he might be the guy riding Pipe.
In 1983, the inaugural year of the Vans Triple Crown Series, Ho was a nervous 19-year-old looking to make his own mark. He would settle for the shadow of his older brother, Michael, that winter, who took the honor of being the first Vans Triple Crown champion. Derek didn’t have to wait long. In 1984 the Triple Crown was his, as it would be three more times in ’86, ’88, and ’90.
His first of two Pipeline Masters titles came in ’86, followed up seven years later with a victory in ’93 that was his ultimate crowning moment. Ho was 29 years old that winter and surfaced above the rising tide of teenage sensation Kelly Slater to win the world title, the Pipe Masters, and the Vans Triple Crown.
But of the many highs, what stands out the most to Derek is the personal relationship he has fostered with Pipeline and shared with brother Michael. “From the beginning, I remember being in total awe of my brother,” says Derek. “I was so fortunate. He took me around the world, showed me everything it takes to be a winner, and showed me how to lose!
“As for Pipeline and the Triple Crown, after 25 years it’s totally personal. There’s not a whole lot of us who have been doing it for that long… basically me and Mike.” A lot has changed over 25 years: the stakes, the sponsors, faces in the lineup, the intensity of competition, and a shift towards friendly rivalries in the water.
“Back then, (the surfers) just didn’t like each other, it was as simple as that!” says Derek with a laugh. “It was a different type of competitiveness, plus we were getting judged on our best four waves, not two, so it was dog-eat-dog… and pretty much all we got for it was a trophy.” This winter there will be $740,000 in total prize money, along with a $25,000 Chevy Colorado truck and a diamond-crusted Nixon watch for the Vans Triple Crown champion.
Still, some things remain the same, for Ho at least. “The wipeouts – they’re inevitable, and the odds are the longer you do it the more chance you have. The barrels – the best of life. And I still wear a 29″ boardshorts – have since I was 19.”
Still measuring five feet, four-and-a-half inches tall and 130 pounds, it’s easy to mistake Derek as a ripping rookie when you see him stylishly slotted at Pipe. Perhaps the only person who sees any different is mom, Joeine. She’s been watching her boys at Pipe for almost 40 years – from sandcastle-makers to Pipeline Masters – and will be back for her 25th Triple Crown, too.
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing gets underway November 12 with the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa (Nov.12-24), followed by the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing & women’s Roxy Pro at Sunset Beach (Nov.25-Dec.6), and finally the Billabong Pipeline Masters & women’s Billabong Pro Maui (Dec.8-20).
As the final stop on the 2007 ASP World Surfing Tour, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is critical in determining the world champion, the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title, the lineup for the 2008 elite World Championship Tour, and the division of more than half a million dollars worth or prize money.