John John Florence wins the Eddie Aikau Invitational
After the Pe’ahi Challenge tainted our perception, Titans of Mavs underwhelmed and we feared the Eddie would have the same fate. But, it kicked off with bright colours, massive surf and psychotics. After the death of Brock Little, this North Shore swell couldn’t have been better scripted. It’s Brock’s swell and the event took a new shape this year; in memory of Eddie Aikau, in honour of Brock Little.
This morning, we waited. There was no talk of the swell disappearing – the main concern was it'd be too big. Before dawn, Greg Long posted to his IG: “Early reports pre-dawn are closeouts every 15 minutes, Eddie would go!” Hours later, Clyde Aikau announced the official call: After much public scrutiny, The Eddie was on for the first time since ’09. You could feel Quik smirking in the background. On a side note, the decision to add Freddy Patacchia to the commentary booth was top notch. Let’s get that man a microphone on tour.
The energy was frantic. Watching the young guys charge along with the old in consistent, macking Waimea is something we haven’t seen for too long. Koa Rothman was taking heavy spills and bouncing right back. Mason Ho was pulling into what looked like hopeless waves, living up to his prestigious family name. The kid’s a fucking animal whether it’s Pipe, small beachies, Waimea or Ala Moana Bowls. And, as they should've, the Hawaiians shined. Jamie O’Brien was spitting fire. The man who teases Waimea on a SUPsquatch surfs the shit out of it. As the Bay showed its fangs, sets closed out the arena. We watched Shane Dorian and JOB share a demon. Only the Eddie can curate two of Hawaii’s finest navigating the North Shore’s most notorious, side by side. Before the event started Clyde Aikau broadcasted to fans that this was the best Waimea Bay he’d seen in the last 40 years. In Clyde’s first heat, he went mad, packing one of the heaviest wipeouts of the day, next to Grant 'Twiggy' Baker’s five story elevator drop, Mason Ho’s Brock Little-esq screamer, Koa Rothman's... there were too many heavy wipeouts to count. At 66, Mr Aikau's still charging Waimea Bay on the biggest day of the year, and he’s the only competitor rocking a single fin. “It’s really hard to get a clean face out there,” Kelly Slater said after his round one heat. “It’s 30, 40… I don’t know how big it is, it’s massive! Clyde’s on a mission from god. On a mission from Eddie. Fear doesn’t play into it.After the first round John John Florence was the event leader with a 173. John sported a smaller board than the rest of the competitors, riding an 8’8" in the "controlled chaos." The water patrol were forced to beach their skis due to closeout sets countless times and left the lineup to fend for themselves. “I’ve never been caught inside by closeout sets like that,” said Mark Healey. “It happened twice in an hour during my heat," he laughed. Bruce Irons, former Eddie champion, doesn’t give a fuck. He was the only competitor to opt out of wearing a safety vest while admitting he never really surfs Waimea. But it’s Bruce... the man does as he pleases.In round two, King Kelly slid up high and under the hood on a bomb for an 81 (waves are scored out of 100). He snagged the only tunnel of the day, which is a Waimea rarity and capped it off by pulling into a backside closeout in the shorepound (but don't picture anything as big as Bruce or Andy's). “I just wanted to get a barrel for Brock,” a teary eyed KS said after his heat. “I miss Brock so much. He was such an influence on my life and a good friend. He was the kind of guy that challenged you to be your best and cut the bullshit out. There’s no one else like Brock.”
Mr Florence was full-on all day. By the time his second heat came around, Australian legend Ross Clarke Jones had taken the lead over Shane Dorian. John was in third. Early on he put up an 89 with a late drop. He needed a 65 to over take RCJ. With 10 minutes to spare he scraped into one of the biggest waves of the day, air dropped down the face while Waimea avalanched behind him, grabbed his rail and came out unscathed. John’s ability to put himself under the lip at the Bay is reminiscent of the way he surfs Pipe. It upped his collective score to a winning 301. As Stab predicted before the almost Eddie, John is the youngest event winner in history. It’s funny for Mr Florence to win the Eddie before the Pipe Masters but we’d be surprised if he never adds that title to his mantel.It’s super tiring out there,” John said after his winning heat. “It’s big and gnarly. It’s amazing to be a part of this event. Surfing Waimea with six guys and my heroes that I grew up watching since I was a little kid is incredible. And surfing a heat with my best friends, Mase and Koa, is something we’ve dreamed about since we were young. It’s one of the most special moments of my life. The event’s only ran a few times in my whole life and for me to be a part of it is amazing. I’m just overwhelmed with adrenaline from the whole day.”
Final Results of the 2016 Quiksilver in Memory of Edddie Aikau
1. John John Florence
2. Ross Clarke Jones
3. Shane Dorian
4. Jamie Mitchell
5. Kelly Slater
6. Makuakai Rothman