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Beach Grit

Sunny: “If you’re my friend I’ll go to war for you!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Let's open the confession box of Mr Sunny Garcia, a world champion and six-time Triple Crown winner. More than Kelly!

Sunny Garcia is the just-turned 44-year-old former world champion (2000). Perhaps more significantly, he has won the Triple Crown of Surfing, the title given to the best-performing surfer of Hawaii’s three events each year, six times. More than Slater. More than anyone. In comparison, Kelly Slater has won it twice.

Sunny is one of our legends. And while his arms look of hardened tough and his fists have pounded many faces, his voice sounds of educated professor. It is soft. Sweet. His sentences are well thought. He doesn’t fall into traps of over-using swears. Each time he does swear it carries authority and passion. His cadence lacks almost all island inflection. And it is wise. Sunny Garcia has lived. He has surfed professionally for a quarter century. He has been to jail. He has been married thrice. He has three children. He is known, in surfing, by one name.

Now let’s open his confession box.

On being an icon: Ahhh, I don’t think about that, you know? I believe people everywhere, all around, guess whatever they want to about me, about my life. I don’t know them and I don’t try to create anything necessarily or change anything about myself. I don’t think of myself in any particular way and people might just fill in the blanks. But I am just me. I just do what I want to do and have fun.

On winning the title:  I was just so relieved, you know? I seriously thought that I had squandered the early years when I was capable of beating anyone. But I was young and partying and just having fun instead. Then fucken Pipe in ’95…So when I won the title it felt great. Good. I was relieved to have it finished. I am thankful for it.

On modern surfing: This can be a trick question. Are you talking about the judging or what? Just the surfing? Ummmmm. Shit. As much as I don’t want to say I think it looks pretty terrible. Every single one of the new kids looks the exact same. They do the same things on the wave. Some kind of bad style to the end section where they punt. It looks fucken bad. In the past you knew the style of everyone who surfed. All the guys had their own styles and you could walk up and down the beach and pick guys out. Now they are all doing the same exact fucking thing. All these fucking kids just go down the line looking for the air section and punting.

I love watching Dane and Jordy. To me that is fucking great surfing. A lot of the new kids just can’t surf with any style. And I blame the judging, in part, for that.

On Kelly Slater: Kelly is one of my favourite surfers even though I don’t like to admit it. He is the greatest surfer that has ever lived. I couldn’t say anything about it when we were competing because I wanted to beat him so bad. And he was my main competition. I love the way he surfs. He can do whatever he wants on a wave. And consider him one of my best friends.

On judging: When they got rid of Perry (Hatchett), the lead judge, I think it was a huge fucken mistake. The judges now overscore one air… a guy cruising and punting one air… and I think it is really hurting the sport. Kids are surfing to that standard now which is just not good. I love surfing so much that if I feel the judges aren’t doing their job I have no problem calling them out. And that is the way it should be. I’ve done it (called the judges out) for my friends and they have done it for me. Fine me. I don’t fucken care. Fine me every single day of the week. Keep my fucken money. I was born with this talent and born competing. I don’t do it for the money. I do it because I love it.

On being seen as a rough character: I don’t fucking care. I don’t think of myself that way. If you are my friend I’ll go to war for you. I’ll give you the shirt off my back. But if I don’t know you and you are talking shit, or messing with my family or friends? Then I will punch you in the face. I don’t care. The press has always made me out to be a rough character but it is not who I really am. I just don’t have time for people I don’t coming up to me and causing problems. You would too.

On marriage and divorce: We all get married. When I was younger I just wanted my own family. My own wife and kids. I have been married three times now and you go through the highs and the lows. With my first two wives we just never made it through the lows. Divorce? I don’t have any problem with divorce. If you’re not getting along in your relationship then it needs to change. My first divorce really broke me up a lot. My ex-wife got married pretty quickly after and I couldn’t imagine another man raising my children. So that broke me up. But 12 years later I see things in a different light. Now we are great friends. And I have a good relationship with my second wife as well – she got re-married. And I am remarried. So I feel it worked out good for all of us, you know? Everyone is happy. In order to be successful in life, in marriage, you have to get to the point where you admit things to yourself. All of my experiences have made me who I am.

On thankfulness: I say thanks to my friends, my family, and my fans. Everybody who has helped me do what I do. I have enjoyed it. I am enjoying it.