Greg Long Wins Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau
After 25 years with most of those spent waiting, Waimea Bay delivered an event of legendary proportions today at the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, Fueled by Monster Energy. It was 25 years to the day since the first “Eddie” was held and waves of up to 50 feet poured in to Oahu’s North Shore as if on cue.
With younger brother Clyde still in the lineup, at age 60, joined by the contemporary top guns of big wave riding, a packed arena celebrated every gutsy ride in brilliant sunshine befitting of a tribute to local hero Eddie Aikau.
When all was said and done, it was California’s Greg Long, 26, (San Clemente) who made a late charge in the final heat of the day to claim the $55,000 winner’s purse. Long committed to an unbelievable never-say-die attack, securing all four of his top scores – several of them death-defying and one of them a perfect 100-point ride, in macking 40- to 50-foot waves. It was the high point of his career to-date – pretty incredible given that he only rode Waimea for the first time this week.
“I’m so happy just to be here, invited into the biggest event of big waves in the world with all my heroes, I’m so excited,” said Long.
“It’s a dream come true for me. 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. Since then, I’ve had every single poster from Brock Little to Bruce Irons on my wall. I look to those guys for inspiration and to be standing up here with Sunny (Garcia) and Kelly Slater is a dream come true for me. I never would have thought that this is my first year surfing the event and to come away with a victory is really a childhood dream become real.
“I’m still standing here in awe and I want to go check the scores to make sure someone isn’t going to come here and take this away.”
“It really is about the wave and celebrating the ocean. It’s what we do: go out there and ride big waves. 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.”
The Monster Drop Award, for the most hellacious-but-successful takeoff of the contest, went to Chile’s Ramon Navarro, who also finished fifth overall. This is his first time as an invitee into the event. Navarro’s winning wave was one of the last of the competition; a huge, seemingly endless drop on his backhand, followed by a detonation of whitewater that he emerged from and then stuck with all the way to the beach. He earned a perfect 100 points.
Nine-time world champion Kelly Slater (Florida, USA), who won here back in January of 2002, placed second after leading the score board from the first second heat of the day. Long turned the tables on him in the final hour of competition. All Slater could do was look on in as much disbelief as the frenzied crowd who were at that point ready to celebrate with anyone. Slater earned $10,000. Third was Hawaii’s Sunny Garcia, earning $3,000. Fourth was defending Eddie champion Bruce Irons (Kauai), $3,000.
Navarro’s buddy Christensen can lay claim to the most devastating wipeout of the day that remains burned in every mind here today. He also posted several solid scores, but a wipeout like his is as unforgettable as a win.
Waimea Bay’s best known big-wave rider and first life-guard, Eddie Aikau, was smiling down on his successors today. Along with the surfers, he would have admired Hawaiian Water Patrol for keeping the lineup and the surfers safe all day yesterday and today. There is no greater collection of guardian angels of the sea than the lifeguards of the North Shore.
The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, Fueled by Monster Energy, is the only ASP sanctioned big wave event in the world.
Photo Courtesy of Quicksilver www.quiksilver-europe.com