The bay might call the day, but in this case it called two.
The Eddie could quite easily have gone off yesterday. The forecast "40-year swell" had arrived on Sunday night - most of it, anyway - and yesterday morning dawned raw and overcast with a boiling ocean. The fact the swell had a lot of north in it saved most of the beachfront houses - running along the coast more than smack-bang into it - but it also left Eddie organizers with a dilemma. The Bay was only 15 feet, the odd one a little bigger. They guessed it wasn't the peak of the swell, but they were a little foggy about when that peak might be. But this was a storm they had to invent a new color for on the swell charts - black - so in the end they held their nerve and made the call to wait. And in the meantime they'd have to watch on as Waimea produced one epic afternoon. Sets touching 30 feet, bay closeouts common, plenty of lemmings going over the cliff and some truly horrific situations that made you glad your feet were planted squarely on terra firma. The star was Shane Dorian, who had enough waves yesterday afternoon to win seven Eddies. Fawning praise spewed forth from all lucky enough to have witnessed it, and the Eddie had a new favorite.
After scamming my way into a Waimea backyard this morning, riding a pushbike down the driveway and several sets of coat tails to get into the private residence, I caught my first glimpse of the bay. It wasn't as big as the previous afternoon, but it was clean. Real clean. The sun was out. And while yesterday was more about The Bay, today was a little more about the surfers. It was clean and manageable enough that they could find their range, push each other... they could have some fun with this.
The early heats were greeted with clean 25-foot sets, albeit a little thinly spread out.
Inconsistent sets, however, has never been a problem for Kelly Slater. Waves immediately queued up as Magnet Boy paddled out, and he didn't waste them. Kelly was the first guy to try and squeak under the lip rather than outrun it. And when he took the more traditional route and did outrun the lip, he did it in style, materializing from a two-story foamball before riding it out Bruce-style into the shorebreak for a 98 out of 100. He was surfing the same board he'd won the Eddie on in 2002 - a 10'0" Merrick spear he thought he'd lost, before eventually locating it under the house at the Johnson's place - and for most of the day it appeared the board would win him a second Eddie. The cloak of inevitability descended on this contest as it has done thousands of times before on everything from Pipe Masters to pool games to rounds of golf. Kelly would win. He chalked up 290 points from 400 in his first heat, and had another hour out there to improve on it. At the changeover point he was a mile in front of everyone... and a country mile in front of big-wave gypsy Greg Long who'd tallied a measly 66 points, only ahead, inexplicably, of Shane Dorian on 47.
Highlights abound. Kala Alexander taking off behind the peak on a 25-footer. Mark Healey taking off so deep on everything he eventually goes left. Jamie O'Brien switching into the shorebreak. And Clyde Aikau taking sets at 60 years of age. Anyone scaling back their surfing as the hinges rust need only look at this guy. Sixty-year-olds take out their teeth to eat and buy the paper and stop in the street for no reason and think about something they forgot. They don't surf Waimea at 25 feet. Truly inspiring.
With the swell having long-peaked, a ruffling onshore northerly blowing into the bay, and Kelly having put daylight between himself and the Peloton, the chances of anyone running him down looked remote at best. Then a strange thing happened. The swell that appeared to be running out of legs suddenly found new life. Sets started rolling though, bigger than anything earlier in the day. And as the last heat paddled out it was Bruce Irons who had the only shot at preventing Kelly winning a second Eddie.
No one saw Greg Long coming, least of all himself. After chalking up scores of 77, 100, 71 and 75 on his last four waves, the peer-popular Californian was chaired up the beach by fellow invitees, Twiggy Baker and Mark Healey.
"Put me down, what the f*ck are you doing?"
"Dude, you just won the Eddie."
It was fitting that a guy who devotes his life to surfing big waves had won the world's biggest, big-wave event. Before yesterday, Shane Dorian had last ridden his 9'8" five years ago. Greg Long, meanwhile, had ridden his 9'8" last week at Mavericks, the day after at Todos Santos and yesterday at Waimea... before riding it on the biggest day of his short life. Today.