Big-wave surfer Greg Long got the best of 40-foot waves and champion surfers Kelly Slater, Sunny Garcia, and Bruce Irons, to win the prestigious Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Akiau contest held yesterday at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu. Long had also won the big-wave contest at Maverick’s in Northern California the last time it was held in 2007, making him the unprecedented reigning champ for both events.
Long collected $55,000 for braving the monster waves (no tow-surfing is allowed at The Eddie,) while Slater collected $10,000 for finishing second, Garcia got $5,000 for third, and Kauai’s Bruce Irons netted $3,000 in beer money for fourth-place. There were 24 entrants, and anyone who has seen the size of these waves knows all of these guys are winners, and among the best athletes in the world.
Some 25,000 spirited fans, the largest-ever for the event crammed the Kamehameha Highway and the bay’s beach to hoot and holler under sunny skies and favorable wind conditions. Thousands more listened on the Quiksilver.com website, which offered a clear picture, replays, interviews and solid play-by-play from former world champion Martin Potter and top Hawaiian surfer Fred Pattachia.
For a good part of the day, it appeared that Slater, the nine-time world tour champion, had won this event. It would have been his second Aikau victory and the latest mind-blowing feat by the surfer universally recognized as the best in the world. But Long stole it with a fabulous second heat, and that's the beauty of the Aikau format: Eight one-hour heats, allowing each of the 24 entrants to surf twice, with no one eliminated.
Yesterday marked only the eighth time in 25 years the Aikau contest was held (since the right-sized waves need to form). Slater, who has an unprecedented nine world titles, won the Aikau event in 2002. Bruce Irons was the defending champion after winning in 2004. Sunny Garcia, is a former world champion. Many of the competitors are now on jets heading to Maverick’s, to face the storm surf that is mounting.