Luke Shepardson is a 27-year-old lifeguard. Projects on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. On a particularly busy day, with a record number of surfers, about 60, according to the local press, taking down the huge and powerful walls of water, Shepardson asked Honolulu supervisors for permission to participate in the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational event held at Waimea Bay, on the 23rd.
His name appeared on the VIP list, among the 40 surfers invited, including Kelly Slater (the 2002 winner would retire at the last minute this year), John John Florence, on loan from World Surfing, Lucas Chumbo and Kai Lenny. , big wave professionals, local legends, some of them injured but their willingness to participate overcame physical limitations, six women, in full debut and the first Portuguese to enter this event, Nic Von Rupp.
They were all invited to the test (the only way to participate) which is more than just a competition. It is a tribute to surfer, big wave legend and lifeguard, Eddie Aikau, who is said to have saved the lives of more than 500 people and, ironically, died during a rescue operation on a Polynesian canoe.
“I have to go back to the tower to make sure everyone is okay by the end of the day”
In front of an audience of about 50,000 spread out over Waimea Bay and waves 40 to 50 feet high (equivalent to the 4th floor), local lifeguard Luke Shepardson left the lookout and entered, like the other competitors, in two heats. In between trips on the water, he was cautious and anxious to return to the workplace.
After eight hours, he was announced as the winner of the 34th edition of the iconic Eddie Aikau tribute. The tenth different winner of this test received a near-perfect score of 89.10 points out of a possible 90 and succeeds John John Florence, runner-up and winner in 2016, the year the test was last run.
“I told myself all day that I can win. The waves were monstrous,” said Shepardson, after taking part in the Super Bowl of surfing, as it’s been dubbed, on a long day in which many of the surfers suffered horrific vertical drops (passing out) and were swallowed up by the centrifugal and turbulent force. of a stratospheric laundry.
“I can’t believe it, it’s surreal, it’s a dream come true,” added Hawaii’s new hero, appearing in the flash interview in a yellow jersey and red lifeguard shorts. “I have to go back to the tower to make sure everyone is fine by the end of the day,” he concluded after the short celebration of a poetic ending that ended with a North Shore surfer and lifeguard winning the event honoring a surfer and lifeguard of Hawaii.
Clyde Aikau, brother of Eddie and director of contests, presented a $10,000 check and a prize of 350,000 airline miles (Hawaiian Airlines) for Luke Shepardson to enjoy. An amount below the $70,000 raised by JJ Florence 7 years ago when the event was sponsored by Quicksilver, however lost.
The discrepancy caught the attention of the local surfing community. Almost immediately, a fundraiser was started to benefit North Shore’s new hero, Luke Shepardson, the main character in this Cinderella story.
The other news. Six women and a Portuguese
In addition to the narrative spiced up by the lifeguard, “Eddie” spawned two other stories. Keala Kennelly was previously the first woman to make the list, as an alternate, 2016-17. This year, she was joined by five other women, including France’s Justine Dupont, Brazil’s Andrea Moller, the first woman to catch a wave in “Eddie” and Paige Alms (31st overall, havaiana would become the best among women) and history was made in the havaiana race.
It would be the first chapter for women in this event where everyone wants to be and it was, as Kennelly herself wrote, the last paragraph about the waves of this female surf activist.
But the story had another protagonist and was written in Portuguese. Nic Von Rupp, the first national surfer to be invited to the prestigious big wave event, finished mid-table (22nd place, 56 points).
“What an amazing day. I always dreamed of competing in “Eddie” among all these legends I looked up to. Today, not only did that dream come to life, but I was able to experience what many called the best Eddie in the last 40 years,” the great rider wrote on social networks, after the 8-hour rowing competition that put eight Hawaiians in the top eight.
Lucas Chianca (9th) finished as the best international surfer.