26 February, 2016 26 February, 2016

John John Becomes Youngest Ever to Win the Eddie

John John Florence, Hawaii’s favourite son, is now officially the youngest person to win the Eddie. With his talent and humility, we’re sure old Eddie couldn’t be happier, smiling down from above.

John John - by Servais_wsl
John John airborne as he gets ready to connect.

“Early reports pre-dawn are closeouts every 15 minutes, Eddie would go!” were Greg Long’s first words from Waimea on Thursday morning, February 25. With the Bay maxing out, Clyde Aikau broadcasted to fans that this was the best Waimea Bay he’d seen in the last 40 years, the scene was set for an epic day of conquered drops and some of the best wipeouts we’ve seen since the dawn of the surfboard.

The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau has been the most prestigious and emotional big wave event for the past few decades. This year, with the ninth running of the event and the passing of Brock Little, one of Waimea Bay’s favourite sons just a week before, emotion and spirit were at an all time high amongst competitors and spectators alike.

The call was made and Round 1 kicked off, Durban’s Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker was up in Heat 2. After negotiating a drop that nearly put him on top of Kelly Slater while sharing a wave, a pumped up Twig, competing in his first Eddie event, paddled for a bomb. Scratching over the ledge, Twig got to his feet only to have a horrendous five story free fall. Viewers got a fright, but Twig, always prepared, always ready, came back with a vengeance in his Round 2 heat – negotiating the very same ledge with his incredible positioning and wave knowledge.

Twig,slater by WSL
Twig negotiating the drop and Kelly.

John John Florence, opting to ride a smaller board than the other competitors, was a stand out all day. Up before dark, prepared, he took to the giant surf with his casual approach and incredible surfing talent, swinging under the ledge, playing with the mighty Waimea.

Kelly Slater was his usual self, the constant professional, paddled into a medium wedge from behind and stalled mid-face, setting his line through an epic tube and giving a historical tribute to Brock Little. On the beach, post tube, an emotional KS had his friend in his thoughts: “I just wanted to get a good barrel for Brock, I miss him so much. He was such an influence on my life and a good friend.”

Ross Clarke-Jones, previous event champion and legendary Australian hell-man, negotiated his way down an endless drop in his Round 2 heat to claim 93 points (Out of a possible 100), the highest wave score of the event, which put him on top of the leader board.

Local boy Jamie O Brien also stunned crowds with some of the biggest and heaviest rides of the day.

Not to be outdone, and sitting deep, John John Florence went balls to the wall for his Round 2 heat. Paddling in deep, steep and late, the young Hawaiian negotiated the drop, got swallowed by the foam, and spat out into the channel – putting him into second place behind Clarke-Jones. With 10 minutes remaining in the event, John applied his casual approach in the sinister surf and paddled into a bomb. Puzzling a late drop, he made the wave and delivered the points needed to take out the win.

Twig taking a nasty leap of faith after a ballsy attempt at a late drop during his Heat 1.

Watch the WSL wipeout highlights reel here.

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