Twenty-two years ago, a 15-year-old surfer from the other side of the tracks on the West Side of Oahu, Hawaii, made his pro surfing big-wave debut at the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Series on Oahu’s North Shore. While his performance that season might not have been memorable, it launched a career that went on to include a world title and a claim to being the most successful surfer in the history of the world’s most prestigious series of events – the Vans Triple Crown. That surfer is Hawaii’s Vincent “Sunny” Sennen Garcia III and it’s only fitting that he returns to Hawaii this winter, on the 25th anniversary of the Series, with his passion to surf burning stronger than it ever has. Garcia arrives into Hawaii today.
Now 37, Garcia emerges fresh from three months in a Federal prison camp in Bakersfield, Calif., and six months of house arrest in San Diego for failing to report all of his prize money earnings over the years. While he’s quick to dismiss any claims of personal revelations reached during his time in prison, he can speak volumes about his renewed passion for surfing and his “most favorite thing in the world”: the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
“Not to downplay it, but I looked at my time in prison as being on vacation,” says Garcia. “After 20 years of doing the (pro surfing) tour, you take things for granted. Prison was a little wakeup call for me. For the first time in my life I got to sit down and think about who I am and what I like to do.
“I forgot how much I really do love surfing. Not just as a sport, but everything about it… waking up in the morning to put on a pair of boardshorts and go surf. I was fortunate to get paid to do what I love. Now, even though I have no sponsors, there’s nothing I want to do more.
“Sitting 100 miles inland in prison got me thinking just how fortunate a life I’ve had being a surfer, growing up in Hawaii, being around the ocean. The real hell was getting out of prison and being under house arrest – I was out, but I still couldn’t surf.”
While under house arrest, Garcia completed his community service hours working at Goodwill. He also voluntarily coached the Hungtington Beach High School surf team. Despite sporting a hefty ankle tracking device, he was also able to embark upon a fitness training regime that has been critical in preparing for the large winter surf that will again set the stage for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
“This time last year I weighed 225 pounds,” Garcia explains. “Now I’m down to 190. When I won the world title I weighed 185.”
Over his 22 years with the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, Garcia has risen to the top with an unmatched total of six Series titles (1992-94, 99, 2000 and 2004), five Reef Hawaiian Pro victories and two O’Neill World Cup of Surfing wins.
This winter he will return to the waves in the early rounds of the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, November 12 through 24, followed by the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing, November 25 through December 6. If he is on track for a Triple Crown title after two events, he will be granted a wildcard entry in the third and final stage: the Billabong Pipeline Masters, which is otherwise only open to the top-ranked surfers in the world, of which Garcia currently is not.
“The thing about the Triple Crown is the anticipation of coming back to Hawaii and knowing that winter time is going to be big,” said Garcia. “It’s the challenge of three totally different events and all the possible conditions. Just the anticipation of coming home. Driving over the hill and looking down over the North Shore… you can’t even explain the feeling. There’s nothing better. That’s when I know I’m still the most fortunate person in the world.”
The final three events of the 2007 ASP World Surfing Tour that comprise the men’s Vans Triple Crown of Surfing are 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. All will take place this winter, between November 12 and December 20, in world class waves of up to 25 feet on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
All of the action of this year’s Vans Triple Crown of Surfing can be experienced live via the internet at Triple Crown of Surfing.