WAIMEA BAY, Hawaii (KHON2) — Luke Shepardson, winner of 2023 Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational: “I told myself I made it because I can win it, and that’s what I was telling myself all day. Super scary waves were huge. It was a dream come true to be a part of The Eddie, to just be on the alternate list and then to be in it, and I can’t believe it “

He answered just like he does when there are calls for help — in the lineup at The Eddie’s contest and while on duty in the tower where Eddie Aikau became Waimea Bay’s first lifeguard.

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“I’ll never be as good as Eddie, but someone I can look up to and aspire to be like. I gotta get back to the tower to make sure everyone’s ok ’til the end of the day,” said Shephardson.

And, for the first time in the contest’s 38-year history, the wahine were also dialed in.

Andrea Moller surfed in the very first heat and became the very first female to catch a wave at The Eddie.

“Oh, man, You gave me goose bumps just to be the first woman to surf a wave out there. I think it just really brings back all the efforts that us women surfers put out there ,too. To be recognized, to prove that it’s possible that we’re athletes. We want to do this. We have the passion for big wave surfing just like the guys do,” said Moller.

And, there were plenty of epic wipeouts. The swell exceeded the hype of The Eddie, which calls for consistent 20 foot Hawaiian-sized waves.

Whether it be past champions —

“I always knew it was going to be a good epic day, but this is just another level,” said Greg Long, 2009 Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational Champion.

Or, rookies —

“This is the first Eddie I’ve seen in person. The last one I lived on the Big Island and skipped school and watched it online. But, first one I’ve seen in person; and I’m in it. So, it’s such a dream,” said Jake Maki, Participating in his first Eddie.

And, for all a chance to pay tribute to Eddie and the Aikau family.

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“I’m sure a lot of other competitors feel the exact same; we all grew up with the Eddie Aikau poster on our walls,” said Kai Lenny, Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational participant.