Luke Shepardson started Sunday on duty as a lifeguard for the City & County of Honolulu.
He ended his day as a champion.
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Shepardson edged modern legend John John Florence to win the 10th edition of the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational in the first iteration of the event since Feb. 25, 2016, earning 89.1 of a possible 90 points.
Shepardson, a 27-year-old North Shore native, follows in the footsteps of the late Aikau, who was a lifeguard at Waimea Bay, the site of the last nine Eddies.
“I didn’t think I was (going to win) but I told myself I’m in it because I can win it,” Shepardson said following his improbable victory on Sunday. “That’s what I was telling myself all day. Super scary, waves were huge. It’s a dream come true to be a part of the Eddie, to just be on the alternate list (in prior competitions) and then to be in it, I can’t believe it, f—— crazy.”
Following the end of the competition, Shepardson didn’t have much time to celebrate. He was still on duty.
“I can’t believe it. It’s surreal. It’s a dream come true,” he said. “Brah, I gotta get back to the (lifeguard) tower.
“I’ll never be as good as Eddie but it’s someone to look up to and try to aspire to be like. I gotta get back to the tower and make sure everyone’s OK until the end of the day.”
Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational winners:
Jan. 3, 1985: Denton Miyamura
Dec. 21, 1986: Clyde Aikau (Eddie’s brother)
Jan 1990: Keone Downing
Jan. 1, 1999: Noah Johnson
Jan. 12, 2001: Ross Clarke-Jones
Jan 8, 2002: Kelly Slater
Dec. 15, 2004: Bruce Irons
Dec. 8, 2009: Greg Long
Feb. 25, 2016: John John Florence
Jan. 22, 2023: Luke Shepardson