Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, January 8, 2002


Kelly Slater, left, took first-place honors at the Quiksilver Eddie Aikau at Waiamea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu.

Slater rips
to Aikau victory

The 6-time world champ adds to
his list of major triumphs, while
McNamara and Resende win at Jaws

By Brandon Lee

Kelly Slater had already accomplished pretty much everything possible in surfing, several times over.

But the record six-time world champion had never won the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave contest at Waimea Bay.

Until yesterday.

"It's awesome, I can't really describe the feeling," said Slater, 29, of Cocoa Beach, Fla., shortly after he was announced as the event's fifth champion. He pocketed $50,000 for the victory.

"In some ways, I never really thought I would win this event, and because I didn't think about it, it wouldn't have been a letdown if I hadn't," he added. "(But) it's a surprise, and a very incredible one."

It's not as if Slater, or anyone else, has had a lot of chances at the contest affectionately known as "the Eddie."

Though it was founded in 1986, yesterday was only the fifth time the event was completed due to its strict requirements of 20-foot plus and rideable surf at the Bay. The event has been blessed with good conditions recently, allowing it to be held three of the last four years and back-to-back for the first time.

With waves averaging 20- to 25-feet, Slater became the first U.S. mainland champion in the contest's history in his third full attempt (he competed when half the contest was run in December 1995 before being called off due to a declining swell). Former champions are: Ross Clarke-Jones (2001) of Australia, and Noah Johnson (1999), Keone Downing (1990) and Clyde Aikau (1987) of Hawaii.

Clyde Aikau is Eddie Aikau's younger brother. At 52, Clyde Aikau was the oldest competitor of 24 expert invitees in the event, which commemorates the life of the former Waimea Bay lifeguard and big-wave legend who was lost at sea after a courageous rescue attempt of his swamped Hokulea canoe crew in 1978. Clyde Aikau finished eighth yesterday.

Coming in second behind Slater was Australia's Tony Ray, who was also runner-up in 1999. Finishing third through sixth were: Paul Paterson (Australia), Johnson, Clarke-Jones, and John Gomes (Hawaii).

"Slater was just ripping out there," said Ray, who also had been invited to participate in the Tow-In World Cup at Peahi, Maui, yesterday, but chose the Eddie over the inaugural event. "He rips anywhere he surfs and he was just catching everything out there."

Indeed, Slater snatched the very first wave of the contest --about a minute after the opening horn --and rode it for 87 of his 319-point, four-wave total. Competitors surfed in two 50-minute rounds, with their best four waves from either round making their score.

Slater caught two more scoring waves in his first round, and his last in his second round, but his opening wave was his highest mark of the day.

Gomes caught the biggest and highest-scoring wave of the contest -- a 25-footer that he outran for 97 (out of a maximum 100) points but finished a distant sixth with a 262 total. Five points separated the top four positions: Ray with 317, Paterson 316 and Johnson 314.

Slater said that it "wasn't an incredible day" at the Bay, but "it was on the verge of" it. He attributes his win to knowledge of the spot, through surfing it consistently, plus taking some chances like sitting a little deeper in the line-up.

Slater, who returns to the World Championship Tour next season after a three-year break, had already racked up a hoard of noteworthy accomplishments before this event. He did not want to rank yesterday's achievement among the rest.

"I can't really compare it to anything," Slater said. "It's just in a separate category. It's a historical event because it happens so rarely. In my mind, it stands alone."

The Tow-In World Cup was also completed yesterday at the surf spot called Jaws, with the team of Garrett McNamara and Rodrigo Resende sharing the $70,000 winners' check. Mike Parsons and Brad Gerlach came in second, while Carlos Burle and Eraldo Gueiros took third.

The first of its kind, the Tow-In involved one competitor on a recreational craft towing his teammate by rope into the wave. This combination allows surfers to ride waves that are otherwise too large and unruly to arm paddle into.

The Tow-In was held in waves that averaged 20- to 25-feet, with 35- to 40-foot sets.

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