‘I told myself, I can win it’: Local lifeguard beats world’s best surfers, wins Eddie Aikau surf contest

A lifeguard named Luke Shepardson, who is more dedicated to saving lives than winning any international surfing contest, this time bagged the first prize in Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational in Hawaii. The competition is held only when the waves at Waimea Bay consistently reach 30 feet or bigger. 

Shepardson, 27, participated in the contest after he took special permission from his boss to take time out from his day to compete.

He scored 89.1 points out of 90 to claim the title and won $10,000 as prize money. 

He said, “I told myself, ‘I’m in it because I can win it.”

“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.”

He was joined by other winners including Kelly Slater, Bruce Irons and Ross Clarke. 

John Florence, the two-time WSL Champion, won the latest competition in 2016, and went close to becoming the first two-champion, but lost to Shepardson. 

Another participant Ian Walsh said on Twitter congratulating Luke, “The Eddie Aikau! The crowd was ELECTRIC! What an experience.. Thank you to the Hawaiian Water Patrol for keeping all of our heads above water. Congrats to Luke Shepardson for the win on a monumental swell & to all the other invitees/alternates. Looking forward to the next one.”


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Kai Lenny, who came fifth said, “It felt incredible to surf in this event.” “I know we’ve all had the Eddie Aikau posters in our rooms growing up, so to have the opportunity to actually go out there for Eddie and his ohana [family], the Aikaus, was a dream come true for me.”

The event has been named after Eddie Aikau, who like Shepardson was a lifeguard. He saved over 500 people during his career.

Though in 1978, re-enacting an ancient route of Polynesian migration between Hawaii and Tahiti, he was aboard a vessel that capsized. Even though the whole crew was rescued, he disappeared and was never found. 

(With inputs from agencies)