There aren't many professional sporting events where you can remain the defending champion for years while having to wait for the conditions to align for it to happen again. On December 8, 2009, Greg Long put together one of the greatest performances in surfing history to win the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau. Four years later - older, wiser, with more big wave experience and the enlightened perspective that comes from facing the thin veil between life and death, Greg will return again to Waimea this winter as the defending champion of The Eddie. We recently caught up with him.
Q: Each year that you return to Waimea for the Opening Ceremony, do you get a sense of time passing and your own growth and development as a surfer and a person?
Greg: The Eddie represents so much more than just a big wave wave contest. It is about remembering our love and respect for the ocean and each other. Every year that I stand on the beach I can’t help but take a moment to reflect on my life and think about whether or not I have lived by the same morals and values that Eddie did.
When you think back to the day when you won The Eddie in December 2009, how do you reflect upon your performance and the ultimate outcome?
My performance that day was the best of my life. Not necessarily pertaining to the way I surfed but rather my mindset. The excitement and pressure of the crowd was so intense. Odds of me winning were stacked against me. But mentally, I was able to remove all distractions and simply go surf and have fun and its from that place that you surf your best.
What - if anything - has changed in the world of big wave riding over the past four years, since your Eddie victory?
A lot has changed in the world of big wave riding in the last 4 years. Equipment has evolved. The growing desire of the big wave community to paddle into the world’s biggest wave continues to escalate. As it does so, the emphasis on the safety precautions we take has increased. On a personal level, my near drowning at Cortes Bank has changed my mindset and how I approach big waves these days. (If the event goes this year) I will look forward to sharing an amazing day of big waves with my friends in remembrance of one of the greatest waterman our sport has ever seen. Love, respect and gratitude for the ocean and each other is what its all about.
Everyone relates to Eddie's story in their own way. You were able to see the ESPN movie about Eddie life. What is your personal connection to his story?
Eddie’s story is one of the most powerful in the world. He exemplifies everything that it means to be a good person. Seeing it on the big screen and hearing the first hand accounts from those who were closest to him only solidified the respect I have for him even more.
Does the meaning behind being an Invitee to the Eddie change with each year that you return?
I feel that the criteria of being invited has always remained the same. The Eddie is not just about surfing ability, but the integrity with which you carry yourself in and out of the water. It is the highest honor to be invited.