Frank Quirarte of Maverickssurf.com recently caught up with 2009 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational champ Greg Long. The San Clemente native has won every major big wave event, and at only 24 Greg is at the forefront of the newest generation of big wave hellmen. Below is some insight into pitching oneself over 40ft+ mountains of water—and doing it better than anyone else. Head here to check out the full coverage from the 2009 Eddie.
FQ: Tell us a little bit about the days building up to the call? (Opening ceremony, week of swell on the north shore etc.)
GL: I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect week of waves leading up to the day of competition. Prior to this last week I hadn’t spent nearly the amount of time in the Waimea line-up that I would have liked to in order to really feel comfortable out there. As luck would have it we were graced with three incredible warm up days before the event went off. The first was a fun 12ft day the morning of the opening ceremony and perfect to get re-acquainted with the line-up. Two days later we had an amazing 15 to 18ft day and the day before the contest was 25ft++ and as extreme and wild as it gets out there. We surfed for about 5 hours in the morning dodging close out sets and really had the opportunity to see how the wave works when its at its biggest and heaviest. We spent just as much time on land as in the water studying the line-up every day to make sure we were as prepared as possible the day event went off.
“Being invited to the Eddie is truly an honor and had been a dream of mine since I really started surfing big waves at age 15.”
How did it feel to be invited to the event let alone winning it on the 25th anniversary of the event with that field of surfers?
Being invited to the Eddie is truly an honor and had been a dream of mine since I really started surfing big waves at age 15. To be recognized and have the opportunity to surf along side so many of my hero’s was a dream come true. It is difficult to put into words the emotions I am feeling now after walking away victorious in my first year surfing the event. The reality of it hasn’t come close to sinking in yet and I have a feeling it might be a little while before it does.
After the first round did you still think you could catch up? There was a pretty big lull in the middle of the event.
The conditions for my first round heat were very poor. There was not a single big set during the entire heat, which made for very low scores. Going into my second round I knew that I needed to catch four good scoring waves in order to have a shot at winning. The problem there became that you are only allowed to ride four waves in each heat so there was no margin for mistakes. Each wave that I rode I needed to make. Our second round heat was the complete opposite of the first and we were graced with a few of the biggest sets of the day. I got a great wave to start and it put me in a good rhythm for the rest of the heat. Going into my last heat I knew that it would be tough to win but never once did I count myself out or feel it was impossible.
“It was a pretty surreal feeling to stand on the podium that day.”
Here’s a question from one of Mavericks Contest twitter subscribers, @lkilpatrick) asks: “How is the Eddie wave different than the Mavs wave?
Both Mavs and Waimea are very unique waves but they also have a lot of similarities. They are similar in the fact that they both break over a very defined ledge. If you want to be in the spot you can’t paddle out when a set comes. You need to hold your ground and wait for it to hit the bowl. When it does hit, the waves stands up really quick and is very lurchy. The bay at Waimea is relatively small compared to the size of waves it holds. You get a lot of reverb from the surrounding rocks and cliffs that washes through the line-up, which can make take-offs rather tricky. Another big difference in the two waves is the length of ride. The reef at Mavs is a lot longer and will hold its size down the line where at Waimea it is simply about the drop. You can ride the wave all the way to the shore break if you want but its nothing like the down the line freight trains you can surf at Mavs.
How did it feel to stand on the podium looking out over the Bay (still breaking mind you) and hoisting the first place check over your head?
It was a pretty surreal feeling to stand on the podium that day. There were a lot of emotions going through me at that time. I had been dreaming of surfing the Eddie since I was a kid and to finally realize my dreams in a very big way, was incredible. As I mentioned earlier, the reality of what actually happened hasn’t really hit me yet.
“I was pushed so deep so quickly and didn’t have the opportunity to equalize the pressure in my ears. I blew out my right eardrum straight away before being held under for two set waves.”
You’ve won every major big wave title available starting with the Mavericks Contest, Red Bull Dungeons, and Almost every category in the Billabong XXL Awards and now the Eddie. You’ve visited all four corners of the earth pioneering and challenging big waves and even been attacked by a shark, what’s next for you?
That is the beautiful thing about our sport and the ocean. The conditions and environment in which you are challenging yourself is ever changing. No two waves, days, contests etc. are every going to be the same. No matter how long you do this for it will always be challenging and exhilarating. The awards and accolades are great, and it feels wonderful to receive a little recognition for my efforts, but for me it has always been about the personal challenge. This is a never-ending learning process. Every session I try and learn something new whether it’s about my equipment or the waves I’m surfing and strive to improve. I get just as stoked now when a swell as coming as when I first started this big wave pursuit.
Last year you got nailed by a Mavericks bomb, which left you with a busted eardrum. Take us through the wipeout.
There are very serious consequences that come along with riding the waves we do. Eventually everybody who is really out there pushing it is going to have a bad wipeout. The one I sustained at Mavericks last Thanksgiving was by far the heaviest I have ever endured. I was pushed so deep so quickly and didn’t have the opportunity to equalize the pressure in my ears. I blew out my right eardrum straight away before being held under for two set waves. I lost all equilibrium and the only way I could find the surface was by climbing my leash. When I did finally surface I couldn’t get my head above water due to the vertigo I was experiencing. I was finally able to climb onto my board and very fortunate that Jeff Clark came by on the ski and picked me up right before I was going to go through the rocks.
Some are saying you’re the new king of Big Wave Surfing. Comparing you to the likes of Laird Hamilton, Peter Mel, Dorian, Bradshaw, Parsons and many who have passed before them. How do you feel about that?
Riding big waves is my passion and something I have really dedicated my life to doing the last 8 years. It is great to be recognized in the big wave community for some of my accomplishments. I feel that most of the names mentioned above are more pioneers who really paved the way in big wave surfing. I am merely taking what they have proved was possible and running with it. I would never consider myself a ‘king’ of anything. This is a never-ending learning process and I truly believe we are just now really scratching the surface of what’s possible out there.