LIHUE — In 1996, Kaipo Jaquias became the first surfer from Kauai — and from any neighbor island — to win the prestigious Vans Hawaiian Triple Crown of Surfing. That same year, he placed fifth in the World Championship Tour, the closest a Kauaian got to winning the surfing world title until then.
Next month, when the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa kicks the first leg of the 2013 Triple Crown, event organizers will hold the specialty event Clash of the Legends — and Jaquias, one of Kauai’s most decorated surfers, is pretty close to being picked as one of the four contestants.
“To compete and to be recognized as one of the guys who are part of surfing history, it’s an honor,” Jaquias said.
Reef is currently running an online poll to choose three surfers who will face last year’s winner, Oahu’s Sunny Garcia, a six-time Triple Crown winner and 2000 world champion. The Clash of the Legends will run during the Reef Hawaiian Pro’s waiting period, from Nov. 12 – 23.
Last year, Jaquias took second to Garcia in the same specialty event, but many who watched the contest thought Jaquias should have won it.
Jaquias currently has a wide lead in the poll over a field of prospective competitors, including three-time world champion Tom Curren, 1999 world champion Mark Occhilupo, 1989 world champion Martin Potter, California legends Brad Gerlach and Matt Archbold, four-time women’s world champion Lisa Andersen, and brothers Michael and Derek Ho, who won six out of the first eight Triple Crown editions.
Since the first Triple Crown in 1983, Hawaiians have won it 17 times. Kauai’s Andy Irons won it in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006, and Sebastian Zietz won it last year.
En route to his 1996 Triple Crown title, Jaquias took first in Haleiwa and placed well in Sunset and Pipeline. He would win the Haleiwa contest again in 1998, but it was 11-time world champion Kelly Slater who would take the Triple Crown that year.
These days, Jaquias works as a county lifeguard and is often seen ripping the waves at Kealia Beach, the very same spot where he learned how to surf.
“My time was my time, I don’t have any pressure to compete,” said Jaquias. Despite saying competing is not as intense as it used to be back in the day, he said he will keep competing as long as he is still surfing.
Last year, Jaquias was part of the Hawaii team that took gold in Nicaragua at the International Surfing Association’s World Surfing Games. He took third in the master’s division, with Garcia taking second.
Jaquias also wants to lead by example. His son, Kaimana Jaquias, qualified to compete all three legs of the Triple Crown this year. And Kaipo Jaquias will be there to give support to his son.
Visit www.reef.com to vote for the surfer you would like to see in the four-man special event.