Long cashes in at Eddie


POSTED: Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In the last heat yesterday, Greg Long came from behind to win $55,000 and the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave invitational. The biggest sets of The Eddie rolled into Waimea Bay during the final hour ranging from 44- to 50-foot wave faces. These mountains of water allowed Long to catch four high-scoring rides to overtake nine-time world champion Kelly Slater. Sunny Garcia was third.

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,”; said Long, 26, from San Clemente, Calif.

“;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.”;

Pardon the pun, but Long was a “;long shot”; to win The Eddie considering this was his first time invited to this event. Yet, yesterday was something special. It was exactly 25 years yesterday when this big wave event first ran in 1984 to pay tribute to legendary lifeguard Eddie Aikau. Aikau was one of the most prolific Waimea Bay surfers and was lost at sea while attempting to paddle for help when the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule'a capsized off of Oahu.

The contest requires truly big waves, and this was the first time the conditions allowed it to be held in five years and just the eighth time overall.

This event — which drew a crowd of thousands and many more watching on the Internet — pays homage to Aikau's enduring legacy of aloha and brings out the best in the sport of surfing, says 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 champion Slater had nothing but 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.”;

Third place finisher and six-time Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion Garcia echoed Slater's sentiments. Garcia, who won $5,000 yesterday, witnessed Long's 100-point ride and had the utmost respect for the 2009 Quiksilver Eddie Aikau champ.

“;Greg Long is my hero,”; Garcia said. “;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.

For Long, who is a big-wave surfer by nature and profession, this win in his young career is a childhood dream come true.

“;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.”;