California native Greg Long has won the 2015/2016 Big Wave Tour, following a third-place finish at the Pe'ahi Challenge in December and a second-place finish at the Todos Santos Challenge in January. Long is a veteran of the Big Wave Tour, and one of the pioneers of big-wave's return to paddle-in surfing.
"The 2015/2016 winter season has been one for the record books," Long said. "There's been record-breaking waves, more big swells, bigger barrels -- basically every single level of performance in big-wave surfing has just been shattered this year. For me, it is always an honor to be a part of that. It is a tremendous feeling being crowned the 2015/2016 WSL Big Wave World Tour Champion."
Long, 33, won his first Big Wave Tour Title in 2012, after finishing in second place at the Billabong Pico Alto and Nelscott Reef Classic, and in third place at the Maverick's Invitational. That year also saw him survive a near-death drowning after a three-wave hold-down at Cortes Bank. The accident not only made him question a return to big-wave surfing, but made his eventual Title win all the more poignant.
Growing up in San Clemente, Calif., Long started surfing early. He won the Open Men's Division of the 2001 National Scholastic Surfing Association championships, but by the mid-2000s he left the mortal-sized wave scene to pursue heavier waves. He has earned numerous awards for his performances, starting with a string of big-wave wins at Dungeons in South Africa in 2003, Mavericks in Northern California in 2008 and the prestigious Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea Bay in 2009. Those early accomplishments solidified his reputation as one of the world's most dedicated and accomplished big wave surfers.
Long finished the season with 21,266 points on the year-end rankings, edging out this last year's BWT Champion, Makuakai Rothman, by 7,272 points. Billy Kemper (HAW), winner of the Peah'i Challenge, came in third place with a total of 16,714 points.
"To see Greg Long win another Big Wave Tour title is amazing," said WSL BWT Commissioner Peter Mel. "I was there at Cortes Bank when he experienced his near drowning. He could have easily stepped away from big wave riding at that time. To see him dedicate himself and overcome any negativity from the accident is an inspiration. Congratulations Greg."
While three events were ran during the 2015/2016 WSL Big Wave Tour, Long competed in only two, but he earned enough points to lead one of the most competitive fields in history.
"It is the experience on the whole journey to these competitions, these free surfs and everything in between," Long said, "that really fill me up and make me acknowledge how lucky and special this life is."