Wednesday, December 9, 2009 Updated: June 15, 11:22 AM ET
A Long Shot
Kelly Slate/Greg Long bro shake '09.
[Ed. note: For complete coverage of the contest, go here.]
In the 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.
The man himself.
"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."
Who da champ?
Sunny Garcia, who finished third and won $5,000 yesterday, witnessed Long's 100-point ride. The six-time Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champ had the utmost respect for the 2009 Quiksilver Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational champ.
"Greg Long is my hero," said Garcia who won the ASP world title in 2000. "Greg Long is the man! I saw him take that one wave (the 100-point ride) and I didn't want anything to do with it. He turned around and went. That guy is crazy. He deserved to win."
Long wasn't the only competitor to catch a perfect scoring wave. Brazil's Ramone Navarro won the $10,000 Monster Drop Award and another $2,000 for placing fifth overall. Kauai's Bruce Irons, who won "The Eddie" in 2004, finished in fourth place and was awarded $3,000.
"It's nice that they ran the event and I got one of the biggest waves I've ever got out there," said Irons. "I got pounded, but I don't care because it's fun."
Many people thought that "The Eddie" should have been run on Monday because the waves at Waimea Bay were in the 25- to 30-foot range. But, Contest Director George Downing points out that "The Bay" calls the day. According to Downing, Monday had northwest onshore winds versus yesterday which had pristine offshore breezes out of the northeast. When asked if the 2009 Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational is the most special event in its 25-year history, Downing drops some knowledge on the pitfalls of evaluating this surf contest.
"You never compare one contest with another. It's like a woman," Downing explained. "You never compare one woman with the other which is more beautiful. They're both beautiful."
2009 Quiksliver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational Fueled by Monster Energy Drinks Results:
Greg Long USA 323
Kelly Slater USA 313
Sunny Garcia Hawaii 292
Bruce Irons Hawaii 275
Ramon Navarro Chile 267
Ross Clarke-Jones Australia 257
Jamie O'Brien Hawaii 252
Mark Healey Hawaii 246
Garret McNamara Hawaii 243
Noah Johnson Hawaii 241
Shane Dorian Hawaii 229
Makuakai Rothman Hawaii 226
Reef McIntosh Hawaii 222
Andy Irons Hawaii 221
Grant Baker Hawaii 215
Carlos Burle Brazil 202
Kohl Chrtistense Hawaii 201
Kala Alexander Hawaii 200
Peter Mel USA 195
Takayuki Wakita Japan 187
Ibon Amatrian Spain 187
Clyde Aikau Hawaii 168
Keone Downing Hawaii 167
Mike Ho Hawaii 160
Darryl Flea Virostko USA 155
Brian Keaulana Hawaii 148
Rusty Keaulana Hawaii 122
Pancho Sullivan Hawaii 70