San Clemente's Greg Long wins Eddie Aikau big-wave contest in epic Waimea surf
*Updated with photo
San Clemente's Greg Long, who has emerged in recent years as the world's premier big-wave surfer, added another major accomplishment to his resume by winning the prestigious Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau contest Tuesday at Waimea Bay on Oahu's North Shore.
With enormous waves pumping in from the north, Long survived a nearly sheer drop down one of the larger set waves late in the event's final heat. Judges scored the ride a perfect 100, which helped propel Long past Kelly Slater, who had led through most of the daylong competition.
The mountainous wave, with a face exceeding 40 feet, exploded at Long's heels and a towering wall of whitewater swept over him like a horizontal avalanche. He received the score on the heaviness factor and the potential consequences if he did not make the drop.
"I'm humbled just to be in this event," Long said afterward of a competition that honors a legendary North Shore waterman and is held only on years when truly epic conditions exist.
Long, a regular standout in the yearlong Billabong XXL Big-Wave Awards, caught another wave as the heat drew to a close, for a lesser score, but it was enough to give him a 10-point lead over Slater in the best-four-scores format.
Waimea was at its earth-shaking best, with the swell holding most of the day and pulsing even larger toward the end of the competition, which featured literally dozens of remarkable rides, but also breath-taking wipeouts, broken boards and the world's elite big-wave surfers thrilling crowd of thousands by charging all the way into the 15-foot shore break.
This marks only the eighth time in 25 years the Aikau contest was held. Slater, who has an unprecedented nine ASP World Tour titles, won the Aikau event in 2002. Bruce Irons, who finished fourth Tuesday, was the defending champion after winning in 2004. Sunny Garcia, a former world champion, was third.
-- Pete Thomas
Photo: Greg Long in action at Waimea Bay. Credit: Kelly Cestari