World’s most benevolent surfer Kelly Slater graciously gifts his Eddie invitation to North Shore legend Chris Owens in act of blazing love!

Tears in every eye.

Kelly Slater needs no introduction, here. The 11x world surf champion, multiple-time Pipeline Master, star of In Black and White has basically done it all, including winning an Eddie Aikau Invitational back in 2002. And he was slated to surf in yesterday’s grand affair too but decided to, instead, gift his spot to North Shore lifeguard Chris Owens.

What a move!

Slater, speaking to the local news station said, “I just wasn’t feeling it this morning and the next guy that would get it if I didn’t surf was a guy named Chris Owens. His brother Bobby was a pretty famous surfer in the 70s. A hero of mine. And Chris has been a life long surfer at Waimea and never surfed the Eddie so by me not surfing he gets to surf and I’m super happy for him. He was almost crying…”

The reporter interjects, “What a gift,” to which Slater replied, “There’s always going to be someone there who wants it more than you if you’re timid at all and it just didn’t feel like my day so I just said ‘Chris you go surf’ and he said, ‘Man, thank you…’ and we hugged it out and I can’t wait to see him surf.”

Wow!

Not only an act of great benevolence (which incidentally was just spell checked to “goat” benevolence by my computer), but also a rare look into Slater’s vulnerability. He continued that he spoke with legend Tony Moniz beforehand about “feeling weird” in regards to the day with Moniz simply telling him, “Then don’t go and don’t feel weird about it.” Also how it was tough on his ego and you can see that fight in real time. Slater’s voice pinched and honest, trying to not be mad that he, himself, wasn’t about to stake another GOAT moment into the sand.

Chris Owens, you will certainly recall, was the lifeguard brutally run over at Waimea this month by an adult learner who could not turn his craft.

Slater making it all right, though.

Doing the proper thing.

A surf angel.

Tears in every eye.


WSL CEO Erik Logan (insert) not impressed. Photo: The Eddie

In shameful act of simpering jealously, “global home of surfing” refuses to recognize inspirational Eddie contest!

Extremely poor sportsmanship.

The glory of yesterday’s Eddie Aikau Invitational is still ringing in the ethers. Everything about it, every shining moment, toed the line of perfection. Waves, waves that scratched the heavens and marched in never ceasing formation through Waimea’s bay. Men and women, heroic in their pursuit of glory, conquering fear and force and wind.

A victor, at the end, worthy of the contest’s namesake.

Was it the best Eddie of all-time? The biggest? Most entertaining? Debates can, and will, rage amongst surf fans, or at least surf fans who dwell outside of the “global home of surfing” where it is as if January 22, 2023 never existed.

Yes, while everyone from the Associated Press to your neighbor down the street was writing, thinking, posting about The Eddie, the World Surf League remained completely mum. No congratulations to the on-duty lifeguard Luke Shepardson on the World Surf League homepage. No Instagram posts or stories praising the valor of Ross Clarke-Jones. Not even a TikTok dance performed in honor of Keala Kennelly dropping from the sky.

Nothing.

And nothing on the personal pages of WSL brass either. SVP of Tours, Head of Competition Jessi Miley-Dyer featured a photo of herself posing with juniors in North County, San Diego. CEO Erik Logan, aptly, a congratulations to himself for being interviewed as part of a new tennis program.

Wild.

And could the hush hush be attributed to simpering jealousy? As Derek Rielly wrote, yesterday, “A little ironic, I suppose, that the ‘best day in surfing history,’ as big-wave world champ Billy Kemper described it, had nothing to do with the WSL, surf brands or even, as the winner was announced on the beach by Clyde Aikau, a professional surfer.”

The machinations of the League both absent and completely unnecessary. At one point during yesterday’s broadcast, some 90,000 souls were logged on and watching. The most I’ve ever seen for a WSL event is lower 20,000 something (not counting millions upon millions who are continuing to tune into the live airing of Final’s Day).

And, so, while the WSL has every right to be embarrassed, looking so embarrassed is… unchill.

Extremely poor sportsmanship.

Boo, WSL.

Boo.


Asked if he thought he was on a par with the great Eddie Aikau, the Hawaiian lifeguard whom the contest is name after Shepardson said, “I’ll never be as good as Eddie. He’s someone to look up to, to aspire to be like.”

Honolulu County lifeguard Luke Shepardson who won world’s most prestigious big-wave contest on “best day in surfing history” cuts short interviews to return to work, “I gotta get back to the tower to make sure everybody is okay!”

“I told myself because I was in it, I could win it and that was what I was telling myself all day. Super scary, waves were huge!"

A little ironic, I suppose, that the “best day in surfing history,” as big-wave world champ Billy Kemper described it, had nothing to do with the WSL, surf brands or even, as the winner was announced on the beach by Clyde Aikau, a professional surfer.

In building twenty-to-thirty-foot surf, Luke Shepardson, twenty-seven, who started the morning by clocking in to his gig as a North Shore lifeguard, took a few hours off work and by day’s end had beaten the most stacked field in the event’s history.

Apart from defending champ John John Florence, who finished second, Shepardson outsurfed big-wave world champs Makua Rothman and Billy Kemper, both surprise competitors after suffering injuries at the Backdoor Shootout, Kai Lenny, Zeke Lau, Grant Baker, Ross Clarke-Jones and so on.

On the beach, following the win, Shepardson, who won $10,000 and 350,00 Hawaiian Airlines frequent flyer miles, a little less than the 75k John John won in 2016 when the event was still sponsored by Quiksilver, necessarily had to cut his interviews short.

His break was over.

Time to get back to work.

“I told myself because I was in it, I could win it and that was what I was telling myself all day. Super scary, waves were huge,” Shepardson told Chris Latronic. “It’s a dream come true, to be a part of the Eddie, just to be in the alternate list and then be in it.”

Asked if he thought he was on a par with the great Eddie Aikau, the Hawaiian lifeguard whom the contest is name after he said,

“I’ll never be as good as Eddie. He’s someone to look up to, to aspire to be like.”

Shepardson checked the clock.

“I gotta get back to the tower to make sure everyone is ok for the rest of the day.”


Lifeguard Luke Shephardson wins Eddie, beats John John, Billy Kemper etc.

Luke Shepardson takes out John John Florence, becomes first lifeguard to win historic Eddie Invitational in conditions described by local commentators as “a watery hell, just mountains of Satanic juice splishing and splashing without respite!”

Most prestigious surf contest on earth.

There is no chance you did not catch the Eddie Aikau big wave invitational today. Not one. From false start, one week ago, until the prediction of monster-swell-come-true as the morning sun rose over Waimea Bay, you were here. Or maybe there, hugging the volcanic cliff, breath caught in throat.

But.

If a three-year-old’s birthday party or long-planned garden work or boozy mini-golf somehow, divisional play in the National Football League accidentally, snuck up then… well, I won’t be the one to throw the first stone.

I was too busy, in fact, to even find a good throwin’ stone as I was glued to computer then phone then computer watching each and every moment of this historic history.

Wow.

The Eddie proved its worth as the most prestigious surf contest on earth. The mix of terror, art, skill, old-school charging was worth its weight and it made all the sense in the world that viewer numbers smashed any World Surf League event where

Today was an absolute who’s who of elder statesmen including Ross Clarke-Jones, Peter Mel, Michael Ho, Kelly Slater plus a good helping of North Shore chargers, sprinkled with Maui boys and the odd Chilean and we will have days to pick over their best moments though, now, in this moment, we have a man the judges refused to name all day long.

No leaderboard, very little understanding of which jersey represented what surfer.

While Kaipo and Rocky formed an epic duo, out-lilting each other at every turn, the lack of public-facing points, general understanding on who was wearing what color etc. did throw the idea of live commentators into question.

No matter.

As Mark Healy said, “best big day of Waimea I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Billy Kemper, “Best day in surfing history.”

And North Shore lifeguard Luke Shepardson beats John John Florence to take it.

A perfect Cinderella ending to a monster one.

More later.


“Nearly mute” Surfboard design pioneer and daddy of three-time world champ, Pat Curren, dead at ninety, “I have a thing for beautiful damaged surfers and the Currens to me have always felt like a two-for-one deal”

"Great sense of humor to go along with those big sad Buster Keaton eyes."

News just in that the Californian shaper Pat Curren, a big-wave pioneer on the North Shore, and daddy to three-time world champ Tom, has died after a long illness.

A couple of years back, Pat was living in the carpark at Swamis with his wife and special needs kid, drowning in poverty as Paul Schmidt, a shaper from Rockaway Beach in New York, described it.

Schmidt’s story of meeting Pat post-surf will jerk a few tears out of anyone who knows the legend of Curren.

This past January, I hopped on a flight for a quick trip to California. A few friends and I rented a Westfalia and spent two weeks surfing and camping in San Diego. Luckily, a swell had arrived on the last morning of the trip; I paddled out at Swami’s, caught a few fun ones, and then ascended the long flight of stairs back to the parking lot.

As I made my way to the top, a woman approached me and asked if I had built the board I was holding. She said she could tell just by the way I was holding it. The enthusiasm with which she addressed the work far surpassed what I would call the ‘usual intrigue’ of a passerby. We chatted for a bit and, as she walked away, I thought I heard her say, “You should bring the board over to our car. My husband, Pat Curren, is in it and he would love to take a look…”

I must have mistaken her, I thought. I actually began to walk back to the van as I reheard what she had said in my head. Then I stopped, turned around and looked across the lot. There, in the front seat of a Tahoe, was an old man, with a white beard and a matted, thick head of hair.

I made my way over to the car slowly and in, I’ll admit, a certain degree of disbelief. Of course I was well aware of Pat Curren’s name, his beautiful gun shapes and legendary first-day-out at Waimea story, but otherwise, I knew nothing of what he had been up to in his later years.

An 87-year-old Pat Curren stepped from the car, and we shook hands. He was characteristically quiet, and carried himself with an utterly distinct and captivating blend of dignity and humility.

For the next three hours, we looked over the boards I had brought with me, talked tools, travel stories, and his early years of board building with Velzy. I realized at some point that I was dehydrated and a bit dizzy, standing there baking in the sun, still wearing my wetsuit. That’s what happens when you get caught up in the magic joy of chance encounters with people you look up to.

Pat’s wife, Mary, and I exchanged numbers and have stayed in touch over the past 7 months. Over long and frequent phone conversations, I’ve learned about their lives and struggles. As I’ve grown to better understand the depth of Pat’s indomitable spirit and determination to continue building boards, regardless of age, multiple near death experiences over the past year, a pandemic, lack of proper space and materials and finances, the effect has been both inspiring and difficult to accept.

Most days, weather and health permitting, he works on a template outside their small trailer, in the open air. I even caught wind that he may have been doing a bit of shaping out there too, despite having no shaping bay to work in. When I learned of this, I instantly called some friends in the SoCal area to try to find him some space. That’s what you call youthful optimism and maybe even a naive eagerness to fix a problem without fully grasping the intricacies of a unique situation. It just isn’t that easy.

There isn’t enough room for Mary to sleep in the trailer with their special needs daughter and Pat, so she’s been making her bed in the back of the Tahoe for the past year. They have no private bathroom. Mary receives food from local food banks when possible. Pat has been in urgent need of dental surgery for the past 6 months, which they cannot afford. They are at risk of losing what little they have left, including their trailer.

There may be a tendency to think someone else is sure to help out, so I don’t need to. While avoiding the uncomfortable realities standing before us in plain sight, a family slowly drowns in poverty, just down the street from multimillion dollar, beachfront homes and organic supermarkets.

I am well aware of how hard it is for Pat and Mary to allow me to share some of their current situation – she’s been stoically resistant to offers of help for over 7 months now. Most of my ideas were small fixes; another potential customer for Pat, an extra set of hands for an afternoon, thoughts and prayers. I’ve seen and heard how Mary and the family have supported him as best they can, but this family is weary.

Pride can be a beautiful thing. The pride Pat has taken in his work which bears his name is evident to even those far outside the surf world. But when we are in moments of dire need, when we’ve exhausted all viable options on our own, it is through simple acts of honest vulnerability that we can open ourselves to the inherent kindness in each human being’s heart.
Today, August 9th, Pat turns 88 years old. We have an opportunity to lift up and support someone who has devoted his entire life to being the very thing others have commodified, and packaged, and sold, and made millions feeding to the surf-hungry masses.

While most of the surf world went the way of carbon copy machine cuts and overseas production outsourcing, Pat chose to do it his way. He has stood as a guiding light for the younger generation of by-hand board builders, of which I find myself a part, for 70 years. 70 years and hardly a penny to show for it.

Mary told me once, “What people don’t understand about Pat is that he would give somebody the shirt right off his back with no idea if he’d get another one.”

Paul set up a GoFundMe with a hundred k goal and even created a limited edition tee for donors.

“You can help raise funds to get a more permanent roof over their heads, room for them to breathe and get some much needed rest, health care, food, and space for Pat to work,” wrote Schmidt.

A common theme among comments on IG was, why aren’t his kids Tom and Joe helping the old man out, which launched an online battleground drawing in various family members of the Curren family, including Joe and Pat’s grandson Nathan.

Anyway, Pat got some cash and for this he was eternally grateful.

“Just beyond what I expected,” said Pat.

A few years back, historian Matt Warshaw wrote,

“The camera loves Pat in a way that it loves few others in the sport, and he was good enough to occasionally play along with the filmmakers. Great sense of humor to go along with those big sad Buster Keaton eyes. Tom’s the same. I have a thing for beautiful damaged surfers, and the Currens to me have always felt like a two-for-one deal.”

RIP.