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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 18, 2005

Garcia to wave goodbye to surfing's world tour

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sunny Garcia is leaving surfing's world tour for the people and place he always loved best.

Garcia said he is retiring from the World Championship Tour after this year so that he can spend more time on O'ahu's North Shore with his family.

Garcia is 35 and exits the WCT after one of the greatest runs in surfing history.

"I always said that once I stopped having fun, I would quit," Garcia said. "I had a really bad year the worst year I ever had, so it wasn't fun. I think it's time to make room for other guys."

But when it comes to surfing on O'ahu's North Shore, the other guys still need to make room for Garcia.

He proved it yesterday, scoring a perfect 10 to win his third-round heat in the OP Pro Hawai'i.

The second day of the four-day contest was completed in traditional wave heights of 8 to 10 feet at Hale'iwa Ali'i Beach.

"I think I have a special relationship with Hale'iwa," he said. "This is the first place I ever surfed an event, and the first place I ever won. Luck plays a big role here, but I try to make my own luck. I know this place so well, I know what to do before I go out."

The proof is in the record books. Garcia has won a record six Vans Triple Crown of Surfing championships, including last year's.

The OP Pro Hawai'i is the first of three events in this year's Triple Crown. If yesterday was any indication, Garcia is capable of capping his final year on the world tour with a seventh Triple Crown title.

"Once you achieve something, that becomes part of the past," Garcia said. "I am proud of what I accomplished, but I'm also looking forward to the next chapter in my life."

From a humble upbringing in Wai'anae, Garcia was good enough to join the world tour in 1986 when he was just 16. By the time he was 18, he was ranked No. 16 in the world.

From 1991-2000, he was ranked in the top 10, capped by a world championship in 2000.

Garcia, Derek Ho and Andy Irons remain the only surfers from Hawai'i to win the men's world title.

"I've done more in this sport than I ever thought I could achieve," Garcia said.

After next month's Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters, Garcia's retirement will be official, ending 20 years on the tour.

Garcia is not leaving competitive surfing completely. Although he will no longer compete in international events, he will still enter Triple Crown contests in future years.

In any case, his influence spread across three decades.

"I remember surfing with Sunny when he was just starting on the tour, and he didn't have much direction," said Hawai'i surfer Tony Moniz, who competed with Garcia in the 1980s. "For the background he came out of, to make it like he did is an awesome, awesome accomplishment."

Fred Patacchia Jr. of O'ahu's North Shore is a rookie on this year's tour. He said he grew up idolizing Garcia.

"I remember I would always watch his Billabong videos. I still do, sometimes," Patacchia said. "I think he's one of the most influential surfers ever. I think his power turns and Kelly Slater's maneuvers made surfing what it is today. All the surfers now want to have that combination."

Garcia said he plans to spend time with his three children, and go into business with his main sponsor, Da Hui.

"My son plays football, my two daughters surf," he said. "All these years they were coming to watch me. Having the roles change will be nice."

Garcia will continue his Triple Crown run today in the OP Pro Hawai'i, if conditions hold.

Other Hawai'i surfers advancing yesterday were Ian Walsh, Jamie O'Brien, Kamalei Alexander, Patacchia, Kaipo Jaquias, Myles Padaca, Joel Centeio and Andy Irons.

For daily status of the contest, call 596-7873 or visit triplecrownofsurfing.com

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.