You are viewing the 2016 website, click to view the 2017 website
Billabong Pipe Masters

Faces of the Vans Triple Crown - Pt. 5

Dec 08, 2016

One of the men who started it all.


Sunset Beach, Oahu - HI
Founder and Former Executive Director of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing
34th Vans Triple Crown

Best Memory
I think you have to break it down in different eras, because of changes on equipment, surfers, etc. For me, personally, back in late 80’s, early 90’s when Gary Elkerton was dominating here at Sunset Beach and went on to win the Triple Crown. That was the heyday of Sunset Beach surfing and since I live there, that had a significant impact. I really appreciate that era in surfing. Of course you have the Kelly Slater era, Andy Irons, Sunny Garcia, each generation has been really exciting.

Heaviest Moment
I will never forget, I think it was the very first or second Triple Crown, the contest was actually mobile in those days. We went down to Waimea Bay, and it was huge. Then this big set came in, closed out the Bay and there was one of the Brazilian surfers getting washed up the beach. This guy comes running to the tower saying “Stop the contest, stop the contest. You are gonna kill people.” I said to him that if I can go out and surf Waimea Bay that day, all the contestants can surf it too. And we kept the contest going!

What comes to mind when you hear Vans Triple Crown
Triple Crown represents who the best surfer is during the winter season. That has been the essence of the Triple Crown. If you look at the list of champions, it lives pretty well up to its reputation.

"That was our dream, that you actually get paid to take your artform and turn it into a sport."

Favorite Past Champion
There has been so many champions over the years. I love that the Ho brothers bounced back and forth between Michael and Derek. Also Kelly Slater, Andy Irons. I think Andy probably was my favorite because: one, he was from Hawaii and two, he was a great champion. It’s really neat, in the modern era, that John John has already won it twice and could be going for a third one.

Beginning of Pro Surfing vs. Now
When you look back, myself and Fred Hemmings started the pro tour in 1976. Back then, a lot of people considered surfers surf bums, and we didn’t have the credibility that we deserved. By starting the pro tour, then the Triple Crown and growing professional surfing, we’ve changed it from being a lifestyle to an actual sport. I’m really proud of the fact that surfers are now considered sportsman, getting paid and getting recognized accordingly.

Motivation Behind Starting the Triple Crown
I think it was the passion. I said “Wouldn’t it be really cool to get paid to be a surfer?” That was our dream, that you actually get paid to take your artform and turn it into a sport. Here we are 40 years later and it’s come true. I’m really proud of the legacy that we’ve made happen.

Favorite North Shore grinds
Lui Bueno’s. They have fresh fish everyday and I love the Paella.

Portugal's front man.


Cascais, Portugal
Professional Surfer and current Triple Crown leader
4th Vans Triple Crown

Best Memory
I’ve had some really good memories. But 2013 was really special when I was the ’Rookie of the Year’ and made the final here in Sunset. This year as well, making the final in Haleiwa and being tied with John John Florence with the same score total. Two really good memories. (John ended up winning because he had the highest single wave score)

Heaviest Moment
Maybe in my first year here at the first day of the Sunset comp. It was huge! I was with Ryan (Callinan) and we both came in with “Dog” Marshall, our coach. I was so scared in the morning but Ryan was playing tough. I paddled out and didn’t catch a wave, took two sets on the head. My leash stretched from here to the end of the beach and I had a shocker out there. But I ended up getting through that heat…

What comes to mind when you hear Vans Triple Crown
Big waves, big power turns

Favorite Past Champion
Andy Irons and John John. I really appreciated watching them surfing these waves. Really powerful, flowing through the wave, nice style, critical carving. I love that kind of surfing

What would it mean to win the Vans Triple Crown
Oh, that would mean a lot. It’s a big, big step. I’m not thinking about that now. I’m just trying to make some heats and we’ll see how it goes.

John John’s World Title in one sentence
He deserved it.

Favorite North Shore grinds
Sandwiches from Wailua Bakery. The turkey cranberry is my favorite one.

The Aussie prodigy.


North Stradbroke Island, QLD - Australia

Professional Surfer
First Vans Triple Crown

Best Memory
All of it. There has been great waves for Haleiwa and Sunset. I’m just having a lot of fun, taking it all in.

I’ve been watching the Triple Crown since I was 8 or 9 years old. Me and my dad always watched it online and I’ve always dreamt of coming here and doing this contest. I think these waves really suit my surfing, it has been a really good year.

Heaviest Moment
Nah, not really, all good so far. Fingers crossed!

What comes to mind when you hear Vans Triple Crown
The power of the waves, big boards.

Favorite Past Champion
Andy Irons. I love his surfing and I loved watching him in these sort of waves. He attacked the waves a lot.

Favorite Wave in the North Shore
Sunset is my favorite, I like how it’s so spread out. I like riding big boards and the power of the wave.

What would it mean to win the Vans Triple Crown
It would be amazing. All the best surfers in the world have pretty much won it. It’s definitely a goal of mine, I would like to win one in my career.

Favorite North Shore grinds
Açaí bowls from Crispy Grinds. Also, all the food trucks are good next to Foodland.

Surfing's photojournalist ninja.


Cardiff, CA
Professional photographer
20th Vans Triple Crown

Best Memory
I love the year that Johnny Boy Gomes won the Pipe Masters. It was really neat seeing Michael Ho and Johnny Boy on the final. Johnny was a West side guy and he was so proud. He dominated the event and beat Kelly, I think, two times in a row to get to the final. It was a blistering performance.

"Even the security guards laugh at me because they know I’ll do anything to get the shot."

Heaviest Moment
I guarantee the heaviest moment was when Sunny Garcia, who was in contention for the Triple Crown title that year, showed up 15 minutes late for his heat. And Randy just wouldn’t budge. I got this photo of Sunny standing there with Randy in the background, and he has his hands up. He was literally on his way to win and he couldn’t go on. It was definitely the most emotional, heaviest moment I’ve ever seen.

Shooting in Hawaii
I’m a photojournalist. I’m very honored to be able to come here and do this. To have all the people and the locals accept me and let me do my thing. Even the security guards laugh at me because they know I’ll do anything to get the shot. But sometimes I pay the price, you know.

What comes to mind when you hear Vans Triple Crown
It’s a very prestigious event. In order to get it, you have to be the most complete surfer. You have guys like Joel Parkinson who can win it. John John, Kelly Slater, they are just complete surfers. To really dominate at Haleiwa, Sunset and then Pipe, man, you really have to be one of the best surfers in the world. It’s a state of the art contest.

Favorite Past Champion
Kelly Slater, he is still one of the greatest surfers in the world. I love his surfing and I’ve been a friend of his for a long time. But still, I’m a fan, I think his surfing is complete.

John John’s World Title in one sentence
The right guy won.

Favorite North Shore grinds
Poke bowls from Kahuku Superette. 

More Faces of Triple Crown:

PART 1          PART 2          PART 3          PART 4

Interviews and photos by Paulo Dias

Final Day Highlights

Road to the Final - Michel vs. Kanoa

Igarashi Takes Down Slater With Buzzer-Beater Barrel

Kanoa Igarashi Seals Zeke Lau’s Elite Tour Destiny

Kanoa Igarashi Plays Hero to Hawaiians

Bourez Shuts the Door on Florence

Nat Young Fights for His Job in Perfect Pipeline

Viewport width =