Lifeguard beats out pros to win Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational at Waimea Bay on Oʻahu
Luke Shepardson, an Oʻahu lifeguard, beat out the professional riders to win the prestigious Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational held Sunday at Waimea Bay on Oʻahu’s North Shore.
It had been seven years since the invite-only event, named after Eddie Aikau, also a lifeguard on the North Shore.
Aikau saved more than 500 people and was trying to save lives after a canoe capsized off the coast of Lānaʻi in 1978 during a voyage retracing the ancient Polynesian migration route between Hawaiʻi and Tahiki. After waiting to be rescued, Aikau took his surfboard and began paddling for shore to try to save the crew. The crew ended up being saved but Aikau was lost to the sea.
Shepardson is the 10th person to win the event that is only held when surf heights consistently reach 20-feet, which means 40-foot faces. This year’s contest window opened on Dec. 14, 2022, and was expected to run through March 23, 2023.
The event has only been held 10 times since its inception in 1984.
The immediate past winner was John Florence (2016). Others included: Greg Long (2009), Bruce Irons (2004), Kelly Slater (2002), Ross Clarke-Jones (2001), Noah Johnson (1999), Keone Downing (1990), Clyde Aikau (1986) and Denton Miyamura (1987).
The event featured two big-wave female surfers from Maui: Paige Alms and Andrea Moller. They were among the six women and 34 men featured in the 2022-2023 event. Mauiʻs Kai Lenny, Tyler Larronde and Billy Kemper were also on the list of big-wave riders competing this year.
According to the contest website, the last time the event ran, more than 1.2 million people from more than 200 countries streamed the surfing.
Watch the event replay here: