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Sunday, November 18, 2012
Updated: December 5, 12:30 AM ET
Sunny side

By Daniel Ikaika Ito

Sunny Garcia
Sunny Garcia won the Clash of the Icons and took second behind Slater in the Round of 64 to advance.

Preview Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Final

Sunny Garcia fended off three former Haleiwa champions to win $10,000 and the 2012 Reef Clash of the Legends presented by Bud Light Lime. The 42-year-old, six-time Triple Crown champ dominated the first heat of this exhibition when it was roping 6-to 8-foot rights, but it was a different story yesterday with the declining swell and the 3-to 5-foot peaks. This win was a hustle for Garcia and it came down to his last ride.

"Man, that was a nail-biter," said a relieved Garcia after the Clash of the Legends final. "I was stressing and I got lucky with the one [5-point ride]. I paddled back out and Kaipo [Jaquias] was too deep and Tommy, [Curren] for whatever reason, didn't go and I got that second wave, a 5.9 [out of possible 10 points] to put me back in the lead at the end."

Runner-up and 1996 Triple Crown Champion Kaipo Jaquias was on fire yesterday and narrowly lost by 1.44 points. Finishing third was Mark Occhilupo, who was destroying all of the lefts in the final. Tom Curren found his groove on the final day, showcasing his signature silky smooth surfing, but it only amounted to a fourth place finish.

Clash of the Icons
Handsome icons, left to right: (winner) Sunny Garcia, Tom Curren, Kaipo Jaquias, and Mark Occhillupo

"I'm just really enjoying competing because for me everything is icing on the cake now," said Garcia, "I'm way passed my prime and for me everyday is a blessing and I'm going to enjoy the rest of my life and not be wound up."

Curren and Occy weren't the only ASP world champs that Garcia had to surf against yesterday. He faced Kelly Slater, 40, in the Round of 64 in the Reef Hawaiian Pro yesterday. The 11-time world champ and two-time Triple Crown champion won the heat and tried to put the pressure on Garcia from the get-go.

"Oh, he's just as grumpy as ever and I love it," laughed Slater when asked about surfing a heat with Sunny. "He has to catch the first wave and then he paddles right back around you. You have to try to get some of the smaller ones and get a score and put a little pressure on Sunny."

Garcia made a critical tactical error by catching a left and missing one of the bigger sets of the heat, but he still managed to advance to the next round in second place.

The last time Slater won the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing was 1998, and this is the first time in 13 years that the Floridian is entered into all three events of the surf series.

Kelly Slater
Kelly Slater beat a "grumpy" Sunny Garcia and they both will advance to the round of 32.

"It would be nice," said Slater when asked what another Triple Crown title would mean to him. "I never really put a lot of importance on the Triple Crown in my career, I really put the importance on Pipeline and probably put so much energy into it that it probably took me out of the Triple Crown a few times."

Judging by his post-heat demeanor, it seems that Slater isn't putting a lot of weight on taking the Triple Crown title, but that may be one of his notorious mind games. Defending Triple Crown Champ John John Florence admitted to hearing a rumor a couple of days ago that Slater was coming after him, but it didn't seem to phase the 20-year-old North Shore native in the contest.

Florence won his heat yesterday and hucked the biggest air of the Reef Hawaiian Pro so far -- and is now in the lead for the Hawaiian Air Show Award, which gives the recipient 250,000 Hawaiian Airline miles.

"I paddled out this morning and I saw a couple of really good [air] sections and it was kind of in the back of my mind the whole time," said Florence, who recieved a 9.4 for the air. "I knew there wasn't much time left so I just went for it."

John John Florence
Florence busted the biggest punt of the event so far, putting him in the lead for the Hawaiian Air Show Award.

While the pressure is on Florence to defend his Triple Crown title, the young, regularfoot just seems content to be back in Hawaii right now.

"There is a little pressure [to defend the Triple Crown title], but mostly I'm just glad to be home," said Florence. "I've been gone all year, just surfing my own waves at home and sleeping in my own bed is the best thing ever."