Sunset Beach turned on the world class wave spigot today and is set to pump out solid surf for the remainder of the week, potentially seeing the $95,000 HIC PRO, presented by Vans, run to a finish in four successive days, starting tomorrow and crowning a champion on Friday. The gateway to the North Shore's world famous winter surf season, the HIC PRO is particularly important for local Hawaii surfers - who comprise the majority of the field - as it is a local qualifier for the upcoming Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (November 12 to December 20).
"Today was one of the best days I have ever surfed at Sunset," said defending HIC PRO champion Sunny Garcia, 43. "Six to eight feet, no wind, really really good. I'm ready."
With Mother Nature taking care of the waves, Garcia took the opportunity to issue some last minute advice to the hungry crew of "rookies" who were out in force and final preparation today: "Get a bigger board."
"Hawaii's the place where real men come to do real surfing, on real boards and real waves," said Garcia. "All these kids who show up with their small boards thinking they're going to do aerials... get a bigger board. They make the same mistake every year and just end up getting in the way."
Surfing Sunset takes a strategy unlike any other break on the North Shore: Know the lineup; have the right equipment; and do everything you can to catch two good waves in the assigned time.
"If you can do that, then you're minimizing the luck factor that you're always at the mercy of in the ocean," says Garcia. "The takeoff zone at Sunset is such a huge area to chase down waves and sometimes it works for you, other times it works completely against you. But ultimately, to win a surfing contest, you've got to catch waves. For me, that means riding longer equipment."
In any other sport, being 43 years old and having a 27-year career behind you might be reason for sidelining. But Garcia's opponents - many younger than his children, know better than that. When it comes to big surf and Sunset Beach, there's no more daunting draw than Hawaii's most decorated and experienced competitive surfer.
"I love competing in Hawaii, it's my backyard and I feel very comfortable here," says Garcia. "At 43 I'm in good shape and by no means am I anybody's stepping stone. They want the title? They can come and try to take it from me."