“This is Hawaii. You’ve got to wear your grass skirt and your flower lei. Oh, and don’t forget your sunscreen,” said commentator dude David Stanfield--remember, from such hot television shows as the Bud Pro Surf Tour and ESPN’s Hot Summer Nights--from the event’s commentary booth.

And, as usual, he was absolutely right.

The sun was out with the trade winds swaying happily the palms and the six-foot waves a pretty, teal-blue. Things were nice. The local girls smiled in their grass skirts. The local boys cruised throwing howzits and shakas. And five-time Triple Crown Champion Sunny Garcia went out in the comp and tore his competitors one new okole. But, nothing new. Actually, for all you interested in that surf nostalgia, Sunny just ripped it like he did in the circa ’87 Billabong flick Filthy Habits. Trowing snaps on da’ sets, all da’ way onto Val’s.

Of course, he told the crowd after: “Things are going to plan. A semi or final out here and I’ll have wrapped up my sixth Triple Crown title.”

We hope he does. But we also hope a couple of 'CT hopefuls, namely Kauai boy Roy Powers, Brazil’s Bernardo Pigmeu and Frenchman Eric Rebiere don’t take today’s tough cookies too hard. As losers in Wednesday’s Round of 64, not one of them will appear on next year’s top 44. Especially Bernardo, who came within one botched cutback of the Dream Tour. With minutes to go, the poor sap needed a high five to advance. He got the wave, he made the two turns. . .but in the finishing bow, he hit an Inside voodoo chop and went down. Judges said: “Sorry, incomplete ride.” And sent him back to the minors for another long, hard hear. Tough break.

At least top dog Andy Irons got to play. He had no board caddie. No stress. Maybe was humming that Pato Banton song, “Jumping reggae party on the beach.” But whatever it was, it worked. 'Cause today, AI went all 8-foot west-bomb-tube or 9.60 points. It was a rolling thunder clampdown to a “What brah, like you didn’t know?’ “I’m still standing!”

Or as Andy said himself: “This time last year put some grey hairs on my head; this time I’m just gonna’ have some fun.” — Hagan Kelley


In the round of 32, the morning before the finals, look forward to the same from AI and Sunny (heats 2 and 4), and also some big digs from local boys Pancho Sullivan, Marcus Hickman, Nathan Carroll and Daniel Jones. Pancho and Marcus are both big and thick and ready to stake claims, while Nathan and Daniel are both young and ready to take names. Pancho even went all fresh pow-pow snow carving for last round’s second highest score, a 9.33. He’s in heat five with “THA MASTA” Kelly Slater, air apparent Chris J. Ward and Brazilian barber Neco Padaratz. From there, stay to watch Maui’s newest burl bringa’ Ian Walsh in heat six, up against Aussie Phil “Over a billion waves bowled” MacDonald, local tribal tattoo aficionado/wave zapper Fred Patacchia and Japanese backhand ace, Masatoshi Ohno. Then rewind back to heat three and don’t say you’ve already missed it, 'cause it’s a real good one with North Carolina’s own sweet tea and BBQ eatin’ good ol’ boy, Ben Bourgeois, out fightin’ for a slot on next year’s WCT. Only problem is Mark Occhilupo is out there also with his rail carves looking particularly Boston Market. So, I guess we’ll just have to cheer for them both. And all.