In last heat yesterday, California's Greg Long, 26, came from behind to win $55,000 and the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. Pardon the pun, but Long was a "long shot" to win "The Eddie" considering that this was his first time invited to this event.
Yet, yesterday was special for the San Clemente native and the iconic surf contest. It was exactly 25 years to the date when this big wave event first ran in 1984 as a tribute to legendary waterman Eddie Aikau. Aikau was one of the most prolific Waimea Bay surfers and was the first lifeguard at The Bay. He was lost at sea while attempting to paddle for help when the Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Hokule'a, capsized off of O'ahu. "Riding big waves is my passion and I've been following "The Eddie" since I knew exactly what it was, I was probably 12-years-old just getting into surfing," said Long who lives out of his van in California for greater mobility to chase big swells. "I never would have thought that this being my first year surfing the event, to come away with a victory is really a childhood dream become real."
The biggest sets of "The Eddie" rolled into Waimea Bay during the final hour ranging from 22-to 25-feet. These mountains of water allowed Long to catch four high scoring rides to overtake 9-Time World Champ Kelly Slater. Furthermore, Long caught a perfect scoring 100-point wave in the final heat.
"There were a couple of big sets that started feathering out the back and you thought they were going to close out, but you had to hold your ground. I was checking my lineups and where I needed to be," said Long of his 100-point ride. "I turned around, put my head down and there was no way I wasn't going to go. And, it was one of the bigger and better paddle-in waves I got in a while. That heat lent itself to coming from behind."
While this event pays homage to Aikau's endearing legacy of aloha, the Quiksilver Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational brings out the best in the sport of surfing according to Long. "It really is about the wave and celebrating the ocean," Long said. "The respect and camaraderie in the lineup you don't find in too many places in the world, and this event really encapsulates everything that's great about surfing: the friendships you make in the water and looking out for one another."
Former Eddie Aikau Champion Kelly Slater had an immense amount of respect for Long's performance and the event yesterday. Despite, finishing runner-up Slater was still psyching on the overall vibe of the contest. "One of the best days of surfing in my life, for sure." said Slater who won this event in 2002 and claimed $10,000 yesterday. "I had a couple of my most memorable rides I've ever had. That last heat was just pulsing with huge sets coming in, it had the biggest sets and Greg won the whole contest with one heat."
Here was a perfect ride from the previous contest in 2004 riden by Bruce Irons.