Sun Tell Dat

posted by / News, Video / February 22, 2010


Sunny Garcia speaks his story
By Stuart Cornuelle

Vincent Sennen “Sunny” Garcia has, over the course of a career that predates the birth of Jordy Smith and Lady Gaga, earned both loyal fans and vociferous critics. He has a name that’s delightfully easy to pun off of, and the meanest hack of any 40-year-old ever. This is all well known and documented. What isn’t so well known is just what transpired on the eleventh day of last December, when Sunny arrived late for his Billabong Pipeline Masters heat and was consequently disallowed from paddling out to surf against Australian Nic Muscroft. The upshot, of course, was a Vans Triple Crown showdown snuffed in its cradle, as Joel Parkinson walked away with that title — aided in no small part by the sudden absence of the six-time Triple Crown champion and Backdoor specialist Garcia. We asked Sunny for his side of the whole unfortunate story, from the top.

SUNNY GARCIA: How do I start this off? Well, the day before the [Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational], Waimea was huge — bigger than the next day, when they actually ran the Eddie. I got caught inside and got my lungs full of water, so the day of the Eddie I was having fevers and kind of feeling sick. I did well, don’t get me wrong; I was stoked. But I wasn’t feeling too good, so Makua Rothman took all my boards back to his house after the contest.

The day they ran [the Billabong Pipeline Masters]…I didn’t really understand the whole Kelly format, and I misjudged the timing of the heats. I still thought I had some time, so I got up in the morning and wasn’t really rushing to get down to the contest — because it’s not as though I don’t know how to surf Backdoor. Then just before I left my house I remembered that all my fins were in my boards at Makua’s house, because I use the same fins in my small boards as my big ones, so I drove past the contest to go and get my fins, and it was when I was at Makua’s house that I got the call. One of my friends who’s done tattoos on me said that they were calling me for my heat, so I was telling him to run down and make sure to tell the organizers that I was on my way. So I drove back, and obviously the traffic was a little bad, so I got there two minutes into my heat and, ahh…who replaced me?

Voice in background says, “The Billabong kid.”

Torrey [Meister]. So Torrey was still on the beach, just about to jump in, and Randy [Rarick] was telling me, “You’re supposed to be here five minutes before your heat. We gave your spot away.” I don’t know if you saw the whole thing?

SURFING Magazine: I did.

Randy was telling me that in the rulebook, it says that you have to be there five minutes before your heat, which is true — if it was a WQS. But in a WCT, they’re not allowed — I mean, in the rulebook it’s plain as day*. In a WCT, they’re not allowed to replace anybody, anytime during a heat, unless somebody calls and says that they’re injured and they’re not coming. Other than that, they’re supposed to run the heat as is, just in case the person shows up to surf. If you don’t show in that 25 or 30 minutes, however long the heat is, you get fined.

So there lies the discrepancy in my heat. Then when I went up and talked to [ASP Tour Manager] Renato Hickel, his initial story to me was that someone from Billabong had reported that I was injured at the Eddie, and that I wasn’t coming to surf my heat.

Now there’s a lot of different stories being told. After that, Renato essentially pulled his story and said that he didn’t say that to me, and that he didn’t know who the Billabong person was — that he was being told all this over the radio, because he wasn’t actually on the beach, he was in the officials’ trailer.

Does the surfer himself have to call to report an injury, or can someone else call on his behalf?

The surfer, or someone who represents him — and I don’t ride for Billabong. It’s kind of funny how Randy replaces me with Torrey Meister, who’s not even the first alternate. They kind of skipped over Evan Valiere, who was the first alternate.

And then afterwards, Evan gave you his spot —

No, Evan didn’t give me his spot, Randy just took it from him and gave it to me. But I wasn’t getting in anyway. Then the next day Kelly [Slater] was late for his heat, and I think Adriano de Souza was 12 minutes late to his heat as well, and they gave those guys their jerseys.

Were you able to file any complaint, or was there any recourse?

I filed a complaint with the ASP, but…I’m looking into other options.

I don’t get the sense you think it was a fair outcome.

No, no. This is all hearsay, but really, it’s because Billabong said I was injured, and then Joel Parkinson wins the Triple Crown by default? Everything’s kind of shady. They replaced me with a guy from Billabong, the guy who wins the Triple Crown is a guy from Billabong…by me not being there, they essentially gave him the Triple Crown.

Of the three Triple Crown venues, are you normally most comfortable at Pipe/Backdoor?

I wouldn’t take any one over the others; I like all three waves. I surf Backdoor every time it breaks when I’m in Hawaii — I’m on it every day. Haleiwa is one of my favorite waves. Sunset isn’t one of my favorites, but I always seem to do well there, and I definitely enjoy surfing it. I was riding Wades [Tokoro Surfboards] this year and had some really, really good boards.

And you were training a lot to prepare for this winter season, right?

I was biking a lot — I started on a road bike, but in Hawaii there’s so much glass on the side of the roads…

Yeah, people like to throw Heineken bottles out the window.

I was spending a lot of time on the side of the road with flat tires, so I switched to a mountain bike and was able to finish my 30-mile loop every day. After that I would run about six miles, and then go for a surf. I felt good.

Sunny and Randy rarick.  Can you say awkward?

Sunny and Randy Rarick. Can you say awkward?

Regardless of the Triple Crown outcome, you showed that you’re still relevant and can compete. Are you now trying to get back on tour, or —

Having fun. That’s what I’m doing. Unfortunately every now and then I get on the computer, and I read some of these blogs, and somebody — these know-it-all tough guys that like to write shit about me, how I’m old and washed up and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, I’m old. Maybe a little washed up. But I’m having a good time, and they’re miserable, writing a bunch of shit on their computers. Whatever, I can’t make everybody happy. I do the best that I can, and hopefully people understand.
For the most part, I’m not out here trying to act like a young guy; I mean, by surfing standards, I’m old. But I’m having a blast getting to surf against a new generation of kids. If I beat ‘em, good for me, but if I don’t, good for them. These kids are pretty incredible. I’ve never been one to blow smoke up any generation’s ass — I tell it like it is — but this younger crew, like Dane Reynolds, Jordy Smith, even kids like John John Florence who are coming up — I’m just enjoying watching them surf and having the privilege to surf along with them.

Did you watch Modern Collective?

No, I’m not a big surf video guy. The last video I actually saw was that Taylor Steele one last year — the one where everyone was in Indo, and it looked like they were all surfing the same spot.

That was Stranger than Fiction.

It was a great video. Guys were doing incredible shit.

So you live in California now?

I can say I used to live in California; I actually spent most of today packing my stuff. I’m moving back to Hawaii. Back to the North Shore.

And do you plan to contest the Triple Crown again this year, in 2010?

Yeah, of course, unless Randy Rarick pulls politics somehow and doesn’t let me in. [Laughs.] We’ll see how that all plays out.

For me, I’m enjoying surfing and traveling, and I don’t really know where it goes from here. I’m having such a good time, and I don’t know when the ride’s going to end, so I’m just enjoying it.

You’re about to leave to go to Australia — what’s the purpose of the trip?

I’m going to do the 4-star at Burleigh, the Mark Richards Pro at Newcastle, and then Margaret’s River and Tasmania. And for the first time, I’m actually going to go shoot some video and stuff in between events. Just trying to do all the things I never really got to do when I was on the ‘CT. Back then, it was all about competing and doing well, then getting straight back home when the contest was done to start training again or to relax and hang out. Now, pretty much every event that I can do — if I have enough time to get from one place to the other — I’m going to do them, and see what happens.

Is there anything else you’d like to say and get out there?

I just want to thank everyone who’s supported me through my whole career. I’ve had a lot of fans send me emails, and a lot of people send me letters when I was in prison, trying to cheer me up and let me know that I had their support, and it’s been great. You never know when you’re going to do your last interview, so I just want to thank all those people for being there for me.

*From the ASP Rulebook, Article 19.02:

“In the case of no shows in Main Event seeded heats, reseeding will not occur after the actual Event has started (not the Event Window) except as in Article 11.05, and the heat will still take place for the remaining Surfers. If none of the Surfers show up then the highest seed advances to Round Three. In a one-on-one heat the Surfer must surf the time period alone in case the opponent turns up late. Even if the Tour Manager and Contest Director are fully satisfied that a Surfer will not be competing in their heat, the daily schedule will continue.”

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  • wow

    Great story. Crap i feel bad for Sunny he got kinda screwed? Marty Thomas take note.

  • LovelyHI

    Haters can hate. If people are sayin he’s 2 old n blah blah they obviously don’t know wat great surfers/surfing are/is because garcia is surfing like he’s 20 yr.s old n even surfin better then sum of the younger surfers! I don’t think age should matter. Do wat u do garcia n neva mind da haters!

  • Haole

    We all know that the ASP has major issues, but when is this guy gonna stop being such a drama queen and take some responsibility??? Get your shit together, show up to your heats on time, shut the F up and just surf! Quit bitchin’ about Billabong too, they helped launch your career and supported you through tough times.

  • east side

    To Haole, Im sure thats you Randy why dont you just do your F===ing job?

  • spendogz

    I agree, take some responsibility. Fact is you were late Sunny. You should know better.

    But I will say that is BS if Kelly and Adriano were also late but were allowed to surf.

    I’m wondering if anyone else can confirm that is true?

  • Bob H

    Haole, get a different moniker (try whiny bitcher). Wrong is wrong, and Sunny wasn’t in the wrong THIS time. I’ve never been a fan of his surfing, but I don’t have a problem with him slapping Liam for wanting the Masters to be a bro-brah gig instead of, well, the Masters, and for wanting Rarick to follow a well-known rule, which he is supposed to be operating under, instead of pulling industry bro-bra stuff. On the other hand, I think it’s pretty funny that Mr. Garcia had a Mexican standoff with a bunch of little Mexican crabs, after he blew up at one that dropped in on a wave that hopelessly closed him out. Course maybe there’s another side to THAT story….

  • LCC

    They sucked it on that call. They should have let him surf.

  • Internet tough guy

    Sunny is an old, washed up kook. First it’s the government now it’s Billabong. Looks like the MAN is always holding him back.

    Guess what happens if I don’t show up to work on time? I get in trouble and replaced by someone that is more than willing to do the work. Why should we have any sympathy if he can’t do the same?

    If he has problems with this, he can come find me on my next trip to the Rock.

    Chas Smith

  • Andrew

    I watched all three events… Sunny surfed amazing throughout the first two events and was hitting some of the most power driven turns out of anyone competing. Compititions are pointless and favorites are played too often. Sunny got screwed lets face it!!!! He deserved a shot at the tripple crown even if he was late. They took him out of the event on a stupid contengancy within the rule book that wasn’t even correctly interprited. Sunny you have a legal case against the ASP, you probably could recieve copensapatory damages. No one should be able to report an injury besides you or someone who is an agent of you. Anyone else doing it is violating HIPPA law, and is false representing you. even if the person representing you falsely did not do so with intent, thier actions catalyzed damages and your prevention of competition. I would take it to the courts soon. You deserved to enter your heat, even if you where late according to the ASP rulebook, and no one should be able to speak on your behalf if they are not a agent of you or a doctor acting in good faith.

  • Dane Losen

    Hows the look Sunny is giving Sherman? Sherm you got some balls bro.

  • ratsass

    these interweb commenter guys are hilarious. “copensapatory??” there’re only four things to say about this story: 1) if the asp let kelly and adriano surf under the same circumstances, then the asp blew it and the incident should be fully investigated and sunny should be “copensapatated;” 2) the billabong corporate scheme is a classic conspiracy theory–neither torrey nor joel would never agree to it because each would face a backlash in the islands if it ever came to light; 3) sunny is a drama queen, an aging bully, and a classic other-blamer; 4) sunny rips the north shore harder than 99% of the people that surf there every winter. all of these are true, which means there is no easy answer to the issue.

  • Haole

    East side, sorry not Rarick. Bob H, you got a point… Chas, you’re a legend! BTW, couldn’t be happier that Sunny is moving out of California. One less Hawaiian on our mainland that “doesn’t respect our native culture”. Don’t get me wrong… I respect the native Hawaiian culture to the highest degree, but I’m so sick of these 3rd and 4th generation punk Hawaiians always bitching… bitching about localism, bitching about respect, bitching about Aloha…

    Only in Hawaii do they preach Aloha, but then sell cocaine and ice to their fellow native Hawaiian people.

    Hawaiians, take your islands back… take ’em! We can go spend our money else where, we can find another tropical island, we can go surf better waves, and we’ll see if you can still afford your lifted trucks, your MX bikes, and your fancy homes on the 7 mile stretch without our Haole dollars.

  • Mitch, San Clemente

    Every day Surfing, Surfer, Transworld and Surfline have blogs, boring industry gossip, and tell stories about these oversponsored kids and undeserving pros who are the chosen ones to get sent on these exotic trips.
    Pipeline is the most nuts wave in the world, every wave is different, if you’re a PAID pro, you should be charging pipe every winter, it’s a part of your job. When are these major companies like Billabong, Quik, O’Neill, Rip Curl going to sponsor the guys that put their lives on the line at places like Pipe, then show up at trestles and blow everyone out of the water there also.
    Case in point, Evan Valiere. I saw him, at Trestles last year, and he was surfing like a young Kalani Rob, combining airs with really fast surfing, I noticed the only logo on his board was Channel Islands??
    Later, me and my friends saved up, made a trip to Hawaii this winter, and couldn’t believe how dangerous Pipe is when you’re sitting on the sand up close. Most of the 15 footers (backs) were going unridden because if you didn’t make it, you could possibly die.
    A nuts wave came in, a guy late dropped, barely made it under the lip, and just got spit out- it was crazy. Cheers roared from the houses. We were like who the fuck is that guy? Some 20 minutes later a huge thick one rolled in deep. The same guy dropped in late and just pumped into the biggest tube. A whole house of spit blew out of the bowl. We even noticed sand in the explosion after the lip hit. He didn’t make it, no one could have. Just the fact that he even pulled into that beast. I was trippin when the guy who washed in on the beast with a broken board (with no sponsor logos) was the same guy I saw blowing up at 3 foot trestles… Evan Valiere.
    He and Sunny both deserve Pipe slots next year. Sunny’s a legend at Pipe and Evan is balls to the wall… They both got ripped off.

  • João

    Sunny is in an advanced age but not old. Not old for sure. At that age it is still possible to get in the WCT, in Sunny’s case of course. Working out, surfing and with all the experience and the surf he has you can never say it’s not impossible. The same way I wish that Kelly goes for the 10th I want Sunny to go in the CT after doing well this year in qualifyings. GO SUNNY!!!

  • Ted D

    Looks like we know who the wild cards are for next years Pipemasters, Sunny and Evan.

  • vicky

    you’re a great surfer don’t listen to them jus do wat u hav 2

  • Pete Simpson

    Fucking politics in surfing. It can ruin a persons soul. Sunny still fucking shreds and what he says doesn’t matter cause his surfing always does the talking.

  • Mik

    rad interview. i am stoked to see the intelligent, well-spoken side of Sunny come out in the media. it is clear from the rule-book insert posted here that Rarick (read “egomaniac”) was completely off-base. in any case, Karma is invincible. whatever goes around, comes around. I hope Sunny learns from this, and it appears he has. we all do, eventually, eh??? i will just add that Billabong has been a major contributer to the WCT as a whole. in fact, Billy is the biggest ASP contributer, and therefore the biggest contributer to every pro surfer’s career… So let’s not all go weird on Billabong. this was an unfortunate situation on an otherwise rad year, and the blame goes on Rarick, and no one else. Sunny did nothing wrong rule-wise, so he doesn’t deserve anyone dissing him in this case. Late happens.

  • Chas Smith

    That kook above is an imposter. This is the real Chas Smith. Sunny is welcome to join me for drinks any time as long as he wears assless chaps and brings the gimp mask. I love whipping him in that thing.

    With love,
    Chas Smith

  • lynce eyes

    You are off Sunny! Your fake empire go down
    The fights, the horrible scenes about your style, about your approach, the ridiculous arrogancy… Yeah man. I saw you many times. And many times i think: Sunny is not a asp surfer. This guy is a local Beach’s Rat boy. You make extra hours in the world scene man.
    Bye bye little Fifgty Boy

  • Bassman

    Contest director Randy R. should resign, and let a new generation do things right. He’s always been prejudice with Sunny.
    We love ya Garcia!

  • Jonny

    The asp should be completely independent of the industry, visibility and profit is too often put in front of the competition and the skills of the athletes. It is the pros for god sake you cant change the rules on will. It is not the Sunny’s story but the tale of Randy the jackass who is tearing to pieces the credibilty and reputation of pro surfing.

  • Steveo

    Why didn’t we hear about this before? If this was Kelly Slater and Brett Simpson the media would have jumped all over it the next day. Winning the Pipemasters is a career changing event, both Sunny Garcia and Evan Valiere lost out big time. It will be very difficult to compensate for this. Both of these pro surfers have the potential to win the Pipemasters, they’ve proved it with their freesurfing and in contests. Both Sunny and Evan should be given spots directly into the Pipemasters next year, not as alternates. It will really add a lot of excitement to the Pipemasters. Now I know who I’m rooting for next year, hopefully they end up in the final together.

  • Jay

    I usually don’t follow the contest side of surfing but this really got my attention. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in next years Pipemasters. Can surfing magazine interview Evan Valiere and get his take on this story?

  • Mike

    Everyone missed the point. Sunny wasn’t a seeded ASP surfer he was one of the 16 ( Hear 16) wildcards who were allowed in the event to surf against the ASP surfers. Most events have 4. The very thing Sunny was so against when he was an ASP surfer, that cost Liam a bitch slap. There were another 20 guys who wanted to be in the event as well. The simplest rule to give all Wildcard surfers a shot is if your not there 5 minutes prior to your heat you loose your spot. This is a chance for guys to make a huge break though for their surfing careers. This was the most important heat of Sunny’s life, water in lungs, fins whatever excuse you have becomes 2nd to being at the beach on time. Wasn’t like it was a 4am roll call. ASP rules apply to Kelly and Adriano, they can be late but face the rule book. Love Sunny or hate him was a good example why not to show up late for the most important moments of your life!

  • Aizat

    loved itthe wave was incredible and the music was adpated so well to each shot, really captures the mood and essence of that sessiongreat idea and soundsso amped for a surf now