"The genesis of competitive surfing traces its roots to Hawai`i
where the ancient Hawaiians competed for fun and pleasure," said former
world champion surfer Fred Hemmings, founder of the Triple Crown of Surfing
Series. "In the early 50s the first international surfing contest was a
Makaha event called The Makaha International Surfing Championships. It was
the first championship in Hawai`i that hosted other nations."
While the surfing world knew of the Makaha Championships, the first major professional surfing events to gain national publicity were The Duke Classic, named after Hawaii's legendary ocean athlete Duke Paoa Kahanamoku and the Smirnoff Pro Am -- both held on O`ahu's North Shore.
In 1970 Hemmings founded the Pipeline Masters, (celebrating its 26th anniversary in December), and several other pro events. Then, in 1976, with the world professional movement gaining more recognition Hemmings and contest director Randy Rarick created the world's first professional tour named International Professional Surfing (IPS).
In 1983 the IPS was superceded by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) and the tour was restructured to finish in Australia instead of Hawai`i. So in 1983 Hemmings decided to create a title that would better showcase the three existing Hawaiian events -- the Pipeline Masters, World Cup of Surfing and the Hawaiian Pro. With their world recognition already secure he linked the three contests into a series collectively known as "The Triple Crown of Surfing Series."
"The concept was to focus attention on three of the world's most prominent surfing competitions held in unquestionably the most competitive and awesome surfing venue anywhere," Hemmings said. "The whole idea behind the Triple Crown Series was to have a champion emerge from the major surf sites on O`ahu's North Shore. Anyone who can perform at Haleiwa's Ali`i Beach Park, Waimea Bay, Pipeline and Sunset Beach really commands the respect of the surfing world because of their versatility."
"In 1983 Michael Ho won the first Triple Crown Championship title," Rarick said. "His win was based on accumulated points through the results of his three performances on the North Shore. It grew out of a need to have something to acknowledge the results of the Hawaiian events, rather than have them just tour rated events, and the title was meant to convey who was the best surfer in the North Shore's big waves."
Michael won again in 1985, while brother Derek began his run, winning the 1984, '86, '88, and '90 titles. Australian Gary Elkerton won the title in 1987 and '89 while Australian Tom Carroll won in 1991. The title returned to Hawai`i when Sunny Garcia took it back in 1992, then did what no one had done before and posted consecutive wins in 1993 and '94. In 1995 Florida's Kelly Slater won the not only the Triple Crown Championship, but the Chiemsee Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters and the Coca-Cola/ASP World Championship.
"It's interesting that in it's 13 year history there have been only six winners, which shows domination of the North Shore by consistently great surfers," Rarick said. "What's more it doesn't always coincide with the world championship title."
As Sunny Garcia said after winning his second Triple Crown title: "Winning the Triple Crown title means more than winning the world title. It means you've accomplished the task among your peers in the world's best waves."
"What started off as a local Hawaiian-based championship has become the most prestigious title-within-a-title that surfing has to offer. At the time, I had no idea it would grow into what it is today," Rarick concluded.
"Catching an eight- to-ten-foot wave at the Pipeline certainly demands different skills than riding a 20 foot wave at Waimea or a 15 foot wave at Sunset, These surfing sites represent the ultimate challenge," Hemmings said.
Today, the Triple Crown of Surfing is the true measure of international professional competition.
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