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Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Updated: December 2, 10:05 AM ET
Playing out in Polynesia

By Jon Coen
ESPN.com

The Vans Hawaiian Triple Crown is on. Let the plots unfold.

Preview Day 1 Day 2 Day 3

Traffic on Kam Highway is already backing up. Foodland is stocking up on energy drinks. Kids are preparing to cut class at Sunset Elementary. And pro surfers from around the world are focusing on the most prestigious of surfing titles. Here we sit, on the eve of another Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

But in addition to all the Hawaiiana and tradition, this is going to be a particularly interesting Triple Crown, if only to see how some of the plots that have been building in 2011 are going to play out. It's been a wild year for the ASP, from Kelly Slater's win on the Gold Coast, Brazilian dark horses, no-shows, floater controversies, an abbreviated women's schedule, webcast rants, brawls, superhuman rides through 20-foot death barrels, and new venues, right up to Slater's two world titles (one real, the other premature) at the Rip Curl Search in San Francisco.

The Triple Crown starts with the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, which is a six-star event running from Nov. 12-23. Next up is the Vans World Cup at Sunset, an ASP Prime event that will run from Nov. 25-Dec. 6. Last up is the Billabong Pipeline Masters, the ASP World Tour finale, Dec. 8-20. Here are some storylines to watch for:

The Brazilians
They came hard and they came strong. The young Brazilian contingent has not only busted down the door, they've waltzed in, danced with the hottest ladies in the room and ordered acai juices all around. From Miguel Pupo's win at the Nike Lowers Pro to Adriano de Souza's World Tour event victories in Rio and Portugal, two Brazilian additions to the World Tour at the midseason shuffle, and young Gabriel Medina's taking down the field in Spain and San Francisco, they have been relentless. And Alejo Muniz, Heitor Alves, Raoni Montiero, Jadson Andre, Willian Cardoso, Thiago Camarao, Jesse Mendes, Junior Farias and Hizunome Bettero are all in the ASP World Ranking's top 50.

But Brazilians haven't traditionally fared well on the Rock. There have been no shortage of big wave hellions and Montiero did win at Sunset last year, but overall, it has been a weakness. But that was all before 2011. Expect some changes and some serious runs at the Triple Crown title from these guys.

Joel Parkinson has won the last three Triple Crowns in a row with no signs of easing up.

Joel Parkinson
Every year when the World Title gets decided in November, Parkinson takes out all his anger in Hawaii. In 2010, he came back from the nasty gash that had him out of the water just in time for Haliewa and won not only the event, but his third Triple Crown.

The Kids
It will be interesting to see how kids such as Kolohe Andino fair this year in Hawaii, considering he has won almost everything else but has surfed these spots so little. Word is that he has only been out at Sunset twice, and that is a tricky wave. The youngsters near the bubble can blow up Trestles, but this isn't Lowers.

The ASP is also leaving a wild-card slot open for a top Triple Crown performer. Last year, Julian Wilson was in the thick of the crown race, but didn't get to surf Pipe because he wasn't on tour yet. The Triple Crown has been modified this year to eliminate that problem.

John John Florence has done some damage on the World Tour since joining in September. And now this Volcom Pipe Pro winner is back in his own backyard (literally.)

Two Johns
A very solid bet this year is John John Florence. In addition to winning the Volcom Pipe Pro in January and a few unsanctioned Backdoor events, he's made some real headway at the Pipe Masters the past few years. Combine that with the confidence he has gained over the past few months on Tour, and his innate local knowledge, and he is dangerous.

Moore is less
Carissa Moore has been given a slot into the Triple Crown this year after a decisive ASP Women's World Title.

Yeah! A giant step for womens's surfing!
Actually, it's not.

Having women surf with men is a throwback to the 1970s. And like that decade, there isn't enough support for the girls to have their own Triple Crown. That's a bummer. But let's not take anything away from Moore. She earned this, and if she gets through a single heat, it's a major victory for her.

Two Hawaiians, two stories for 2011, Sunny Garcia and Carissa Moore.

The Sunny also rises
Turning 42 in January, Sunny Garcia is still very much a part of pro surfing. His headlines this year were for a $10,000 fine and six-month suspension following his physical altercation with a local at Burleigh Heads on Feb. 19. But do the math. The suspension is over. Garcia's former World Title saves him a slot in the Reef Pro at Haliewa (after surfing as a Legend last year) and his six Triple Crowns are not exactly ancient history.