Sunny Garcia Rises and Shines : Op Pro Surfing: San Clemente’s Beschen also advances by scoring highest wave of the day.


Defending Op Pro champion Sunny Garcia would have liked a few more days to settle in and practice surfing the Huntington Beach break, but in his first heat, it didn’t seem to matter.

Starting in the second round of the main event, Garcia easily won his first heat, scoring 24 points to the second-place Richard Lovett’s 22.64.

“I wanted to get here early but my sponsor, Billabong, had a contest in Jeffrey’s Bay (South Africa). I didn’t get in until Tuesday,” Garcia said. “Yesterday was the first day I surfed since Sunday.”


The time off didn’t appear to hurt Garcia, 24.

“The Op brings out the best in most people; it does in me,” he said. “This is the first beach I ever surfed outside of Hawaii.”

Now in his ninth year on the world tour, Garcia has been competing since he was 14.

“Surfing’s come a long way in that time,” he said. “When I started, if you finished 33rd in a contest, you’d get $300 and we thought that was big money. Now it’s $1,500 for 33rd.”

Garcia grew up in a tough neighborhood in Makaha, Hawaii. His parents divorced when he was 5. With his mother and sisters, Garcia lived on welfare at times and lived off a single, minimum wage at others. And school was no escape.

“Where I went to school, if you didn’t know how to fight, you wouldn’t want to go to school,” he said.

After taking a few beatings at school and gaining confidence in his surfing, he dropped out and committed himself to the his sport.

“When I first turned pro, I was making $600 a month and I thought I was on top of the world,” he said.


In addition to putting money in his pocket, Garcia credits surfing with keeping him out of trouble. “My best friends from home are in jail and if I wasn’t surfing I probably would have been hanging out with them.”

Even on the surfing scene, Garcia struggled to stay focused. In 1988, he developed an addiction to cocaine, and something had to give. He chose surfing and his family.

On the world tour, his determination showed as he climbed from 16th place to 10th to sixth to third. His wife, Anella, and their three children met him in Huntington Beach to cheer him on in the Op Pro.

After two rounds of men’s surfing Friday, only 32 of 218 surfers who entered event remain. San Clemente’s Shane Beschen scored the highest wave of the day--an 8.83--on his way to scoring the highest heat of the day, 26.76.

In the same heat as Beschen, Rob Machado of Cardiff scored a 23.40 to advance.

“It was the usual California waves out there,” Machado said. “It’s tougher when it’s inconsistent like that, but I guess I’m used to it.”

Also advancing were: Joey Jenkins of North Hollywood, Shane Stoneman of Dana Point and Jeff Deffenbaugh of Huntington Beach. Australians Richie Lovett and Barton Lynch advanced, as did the amateur champion Kalani Robb. Newport Beach surfer Richie Collins advanced in men’s surfing and longboarding competitions.



Today’s schedule: 7-9:40 a.m.--Longboarding main event, round 2, heats 1-8; 9:40 a.m.-12:20 p.m.--Men’s surfing main event round 3, heats 1-8; 12:20-12:50 p.m.--tandem exhibition; 12:50-1:50 p.m.--Op Surf Stars exhibition; 1:50-3:10 p.m.--Women’s quarterfinal, heats 1-4; 3:10-4:30 p.m.--Longboarding quarterfinal, heats 1-4; 4:30-5:50 p.m.--Op Junior quarterfinal, heats 1-4.

Men’s main event results

Round 2 (Top two advance to third round)

Heat 1: 1. Chris Brown, Santa Barbara; 2. Victor Ribas, Brazil; 3. Donnie Solomon, Point Mugu; 4. Jack Johnson, Hawaii.

Heat 2: 1. Renan Rocha, Brazil; 2. Barton Lynch, Australia; 3. Todd Miller, Huntington Beach; 4. Flavio Padaratz, Brazil.

Heat 3: 1. Joey Jenkins, North Hollywood; 2. Matt Hoy, Australia; 3. Guilherme Herdy, Brazil; 4. Simon Law, Australia.

Heat 4: 1. Shane Stoneman, Dana Point; 2. David Vetea, Tahiti; 3. Pat O’Connell, Laguna Niguel; 4. Piu Pereira, Brazil.

Heat 5: 1. Kelly Slater, Cocoa Beach, Fla.; 2. Kalani Robb, Hawaii; 3. Tim Curran, Oxnard.

Heat 6: 1. Todd Holland, Cocoa Beach, Fla.; 2. Richard Marsh, Australia; 3. Conan Hayes, Hawaii; 4. Dwayne Maki, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.


Heat 7: 1. Fabio Gouveia, Brazil; 2. Kaipo Jaqulas, Hawaii; 3. Shea Lopez, Pasadena; 4. Pedro Muller, Brazil.

Heat 8: 1. Derek Ho, Hawaii; 2. Shane Dorian, Hawaii; 3. Todd Kline, Melborne, Fla.; 4. Taylor Knox, Carlsbad.

Heat 9: 1. Shane Beschen, San Clemente; 2. Rob Machado, Cardiff; 3. Plinio Ribas, Brazil; 4. Marty Thomas, Hawaii.

Heat 10: 1. Peterson Rosa, Brazil; 2. Mark Bannister, Australia; 3. Doug Silva, Solana Beach; 4. Matt Coleman, Carlsbad.

Heat 11: 1. Sunny Garcia, Hawaii; 2. Richard Lovett, Australia; 3. Larry Rios, Hawaii; 4. Mike Rommelse, Australia.

Heat 12: 1. Tony Ray, Australia; 2. Jeff Deffenbaugh, Huntington Beach; 3. Nate Acker, Santa Cruz; 4. David Dixon, Stuart, Fla.


Heat 13: 1. Jake Spooner, Australia; 2. Richie Collins, Newport Beach; 3. Kirk Tice, Huntington Beach; 4. Luke Egan, Australia.

Heat 14: 1. Stuart Bedford-Brown, Australia; 2. Dean Randazzo, Oceanside; 3. Adam Replogle, Santa Cruz; 4. Ricardo Tatui, Brazil.

Heat 15: 1. Ross Williams, Hawaii; 2. Mike Parsons, San Clemente; 3. Shane Herring, Australia; 4. Michael Barry, Australia.

Heat 16: 1. Jojo Olivenca, Brazil; 2. Shane Powell, Australia; 3. Shawn Sutton, Hawaii; 4. Dino Andino, San Clemente.