Luke Shepardson has taken out The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational at Waimea Bay in Hawaii.
The North Shore of Oahu has a new hero.
Shepardson, a 27-year-old local on-duty lifeguard, claimed one of the most prestigious surfing competitions in the world in front of 50,000 spectators.
The morning rose with a rising swell hitting the buoy at 29 feet and 19 seconds and quickly invading the iconic North Shore bay.
And despite the occasional closeout sets, the event got underway with the minimum conditions set for running the show – 30 feet.
Soon, it was clear that the waves would exceed the most optimistic expectations.
The stakes were high, and the local contingent of big-wave riders soon took over the event featuring 40 male and female competitors.
Ultimately, Luke Shepardson ended up scoring a near-perfect 89.1 out of a possible 90 points, with three waves counting to the final result, and each scored out of 30.
Actually, the Honolulu City Council lifeguard had to get permission from his supervisor to compete, as he and his colleagues were busy and reporting over 60 rescues during the day.
“I told myself, ‘I’m in it because I can win it.'” revealed the unexpected hero.
“It was super scary. The waves were huge, and it was a dream come true just to be part of The Eddie, just to be on the alternate list.”
“I can’t believe it – it’s crazy. I’ve got to get back to the tower to make sure everyone’s OK until the end of the day.”
The outcome kept John John Florence from becoming the first-ever athlete to win The Eddie Aikau Invitational twice.
Florence won the event last time it ran in 2015/2016.
History in the Making
The format saw athletes surfing two rounds of five heats each – each surfer could ride a maximum of four waves in each round.
After eight hours of intense action, the wave of the day award went to Zeke Lau.
Andrea Moller became the first surfer to compete at The Eddie after paddling out for the first heat of the day.
She was soon followed by Keala Kennelly, Justine Dupont, Emily Erickson, Makani Adric, and Paige Alms.
Kennelly claimed the wipeout of the day after falling down the face of a 40-foot liquid avalanche. Scary, but nothing she hasn’t been used to.
For many invitees, the tenth edition was the best The Eddie that was ever run at Waimea Bay.
The contest has been held in memory of Eddie Aikau since 1985 and supervised by his brother Clyde Aikau.
Kelly Slater was set to compete but didn’t feel good in the morning, and an opportunity knocked for Chris Owens, who had never surfed The Eddie.
The bay has once again called the day, and the tenth The Eddie Aikau Invitational champion has been crowned in unforgettable 50-60-foot waves.
Luke Shepardson joins a historical list of glorious personalities, which includes John John Florence (2016), Greg Long (2009), Bruce Irons (2004), Kelly Slater (2002), Ross Clarke Jones (2001), Noah Johnson (1999), Keone Downing (1990), Clyde Aikau (1987), and Denton Miyamura (1986).
January 25, 2023, was proclaimed Luke Shepardson Day on Oahu by Mayor Rick Blangiardi.
2023 The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational | Results
1. Luke Shepardson
2. John John Florence
3. Mark Healey
4. Billy Kemper
5. Kai Lenny
6. Zeke Lau
7. Landon Mcnamara
8. Keali’i Mamala