Over the next 14 years Greg did just that—and with a dedication exhibited by no other surfer before. This dedication can be measured not only by the incredible waves ridden in dozens of countries and various latitudes, but in the record books—he is perhaps the winningest surfer in the sport’s history. Greg has dominated the XXL Global Big Wave Awards, winning 2005’s ‘Biggest Paddle In’, 2007’s ‘Biggest Tow-in’, 2009 and 2014’s ‘Ride of the Year’, and the most coveted ‘Performer of the Year’ in 2004, 2008 and 2013—the titles separated by almost a decade. In the competitive realm, Long has been no less successful, winning two WSL big wave world titles.
But more than any of these awards or podium appearances it would be a wipeout that would define Greg Long’s commitment to this most dangerous aspect of the sport. In December, 2012, while surfing 100 miles offshore at a remote seamount known as Cortes Bank, Long was steamrolled by a five-story wall of water and held underwater for four consecutive waves. Despite years of intense physical and mental training, and a methodical approach that stressed safety and preparation, this wipeout was simply beyond anything he’d yet experienced: Greg fought hard but blacked out mere inches from the surface. Fortunately the same safety procedures he’d help innovate saw him be pulled from the water unconscious and rushed to his support boat, where he was stabilized and eventually airlifted by the Coast Guard to a mainland hospital. This near-death experience shook Long to his core: the ocean he loved had done its best to kill him. And yet only days after technically drowning Long returned to the ocean, competing at the Maverick’s contest in heavy conditions. He’d go on to win his first Big Wave World Tour Championship and only six months later win the XXL ‘Ride of the Year’ for a giant lefthand barrel at Mexico’s Puerto Escondido.