Garcia looks to sunny side after period behind bars

HE has a reputation for being volatile but it was a philosophical Sunny Garcia who arrived in Newcastle this week ready to begin his requalification campaign for the World Championship Tour.

The 2000 world surfing champion has taken plenty from a troubled year, in which he served a three-month prison sentence for tax evasion then seven months of home confinement.

And, despite being 38, he believes he can prove the doubters wrong by returning to surfing's upper echelon.

"It might sound weird but the prison part was actually a good thing for me it gave me some time to think, and really think, about all of the things I appreciate in life," Garcia said yesterday.

"I had some time off to really realise how much I love the sport . . . I went online and read a lot of things about people saying that I'm an old fart and I should give it up and that I can't beat some of these young guys, so for me that's just fuel for the fire, and I want to come back and prove a lot of people wrong."

It has been more than 20 years since Garcia had to qualify for the world's top tier of surfing and a lot has changed since then.

Now he has to slog it out on the World Qualifying Series at events like this week's Mark Richards Pro at Merewether Beach.

But it is an experience the Hawaiian said he was looking forward to.

"I don't mind going on the WQS and trying to qualify I think it's going to be fun," he said. "Whether I qualify or not remains to be seen, but I'm going to have fun doing it."

It was a challenge Garcia admitted to being a little "nervous" about, but he also had a renewed enthusiasm for the sport.

"I think the WQS will suit me just fine because I think over the years, being on the WCT, I got really lazy towards the end," Garcia said.

"You get really spoilt because you get to pick the day you want to surf, and I think the WQS just show-up-and-surf-whatever-you've-got deal is perfect because I'm all about just dealing with what you've got to deal with."

He competed in his first WQS event last week a two-star rated contest at Huntington Beach in California and made it to the quarter-finals.

He has been granted a wildcard for the Mark Richards Pro and makes his first appearance about lunchtime tomorrow.

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