Derek Ho still going strong at age 43
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Derek Ho will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing by doing what he always has — surfing.
Ho, 43, is the only surfer from the inaugural Triple Crown in 1983 who is still competing in this year's Triple Crown.
"It's not like I got big and fat and can't surf anymore," Ho said with a laugh. "I guess it's just a love for the ocean. I love being out there and I still feel like I have a drive to compete."
This year's Triple Crown series is scheduled to start tomorrow with the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Hale'iwa Ali'i Beach.
The Triple Crown features three separate surfing contests at three different venues along O'ahu's North Shore.
The best overall performer in the three contests is awarded the Triple Crown championship, and it is considered one of the most prestigious titles in the sport because it tests the surfers' skills in Hawai'i's famous powerful waves.
The Ho family has been synonymous with North Shore surfing for the past four decades.
Derek surfed in 23 of the previous 24 Triple Crowns (he missed it in 1997 due to a knee injury). He won it four times (1984, '86, '88 and '90).
In 1993, he did not win the Triple Crown, but accomplished something even greater. By winning the Pipeline Masters that year, he won the world championship, becoming the first male surfer from Hawai'i to win a professional title.
"That wasn't just big for the family, that was big for the state," said his older brother Michael. "There's just so many memories we have from the Triple Crown. It's too hard to pick out one or two."
Indeed, the Ho brothers combined to win six of the first eight Triple Crown championships. Michael won the first one in 1983, and then again in '85.
"My brother has been my motivation since day one," said Derek, who is seven years younger than Michael. "He's the reason for my success in the surfing world. I remember being a little kid building sand castles on the beach when he was winning contests."
Wai'anae's Sunny Garcia holds the record with six Triple Crown championships, and Derek is tied with Kaua'i's Andy Irons for second with four titles each.
Much has changed since the Ho brothers dominated the North Shore waves in the 1980s and early '90s.
Perhaps most significant, there is another family member in the mix now.
Mason Ho, who is 19 and Michael's oldest son, will also enter this year's Triple Crown. He is fast becoming a North Shore standout of his own.
Last week at Sunset Beach, Mason placed second in the Xcel Pro, which is considered a lead-in event for the Triple Crown.
"I try not to put that pressure of my dad and my Uncle Derek on me," Mason said. "But at the same time, I kind of like it. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have a lot of the things I do have."
Interestingly, Derek will be the oldest contestant in the Reef Hawaiian Pro this week, and Mason will be one of the youngest.
"I'm not done yet," Derek said. "I don't enter a contest for promotion or for my sponsors. Obviously, the sponsors help get you there, but when I enter a contest, I want to win it."
Randy Rarick, the executive director of the Triple Crown, said Derek is still considered a contender if the waves get big.
"Experience makes all the difference on the North Shore," Rarick said. "You might not be as fast as the young hotshots, but you can make up for it by knowing the waves. That shows with Derek and his longevity."
But both Derek and Michael admit that it is more difficult to win a contest now than it was 25 years ago.
"There's no such thing as an easy heat now," Derek said. "Back in the day, you could pick out a few guys who you knew you could beat. Now, you might not even know the guy's name and he'll be red hot."
In any case, Mason may be just the first of the next generation of surfers in the Ho family. His younger sister, Coco, is a top-ranked amateur, and there are other cousins getting started.
"We know we have a dynasty thing going," Derek said. "We appreciate it, and we don't take it for granted. That's what we keep telling the kids — enjoy the ocean because that's something money can't buy."
WOMEN'S WORLD TITLE WILL BE DECIDED HERE
While Mick Fanning has already clinched the 2007 men's world championship, the women's world title is still up for grabs entering the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Results from the Roxy Pro at Sunset Beach and the Billabong Pro Maui at Honolua Bay — the second and third contests of the women's Triple Crown — will determine the 2007 women's world champion.
Australia's Stephanie Gilmore is ranked No. 1 with 5,508 points. She is seeking to become the first rookie to win a world title.
Five other contenders are in mathematical contention for the title: Silvana Lima, Sofia Mulanovich, Chelsea Hedges and Layne Beachley.
"A lot of the women still have a shot, so it's going to be exciting," Rarick said. "One of those years where every heat will be important."
Hawai'i surfers Megan Abubo, Rochelle Ballard and Melanie Bartels are not in the world title race, but they all need strong showings in the Triple Crown to requalify for the 2008 World Championship Tour.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.