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May-11-2011 17:09printcomments

51-Year-Old Santa Barbara Native, Eric Akiskalian Amongst Elite Nominees and Winners

Eric has also become the oldest big-wave surfer to ever be nominated in the history of the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards in this category.

Eric Akiskalian and family
Look for a larger version below, as well as a great shot of the wave that brought the honors!

(SANTA BARBARA) -  You might ask, 'What has all of this got to do with Santa Barbara?'  Well, I’ll tell you.  Nominated for the first time ever in the Biggest Wave Category was 51-year-old S.B. native Eric Akiskalian, owner of, who was towed into a behemoth of a wave in Oregon by his partner Keith Galbraith during a massive NW swell last November (Akiskalian is now living with his family in the Pacific Northwest). Eric has also become the oldest big-wave surfer to ever be nominated in the history of the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards in this category.

For the past decade Eric has been “living the dream” of chasing the largest swells the Pacific has to offer.  From South Reef in Oregon to Teahupoo in Tahiti, from Jaws on Maui, to Punta de Lobos in Chile, and on to the Cortes Bank, Ghost Tree, Maverick's, and Shark Park in California, “Eric A” as he is known has made a name for himself in the big-wave surfing community at an age when most surfers are satisfied just to catch an overhead wave on a longboard. 

Evading serious injury and possible drowning several times (he went over the falls at Teahupoo, and almost drowning on a bomb at Shark Park) and earning himself an XXL  Nomination for 'Wipe Out of The Year' in 2006, Eric knows no fear, and charges as hard as anyone, earning the respect of his peers like Chris Brown, Chuck Patterson, and Greg Long.

Anyone who surfs Rincon with regularity knows Eric well—easily recognizable because he is always riding goofyfoot on his bright yellow 9’ gun shaped by S.B. local Dave Johnson of Progressive Surfboards.  It was also an honor for Johnson to be a part of the XXL awards ceremony.  Santa Barbara Surfer would like to congratulate Eric for this prestigious honor.  As a friend and surfing buddy of his since 1975, we are proud of you Bud!  Now you can play it safe and retire, right? 

"Retire??? Surfing big waves is in my blood and so is the passion to keep challenging myself to go bigger and deeper. I am in the best shape spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically of my life right now and the momentum has been set! I would like to thank my family, friends and big-wave surfing community for all of their continued support and love."  "Keep The Dream Alive!" - Eric A.

It was a very close call this year for the winner and it could have gone to any of the top biggest wave nominees. Although Eric did not win the XXL Biggest Wave Award he did earn himself a Lifetime Achievement Award in the eyes of his family, friends and peers from around the globe.

Eric basically accomplished the unthinkable by taking a risk and following a dream he had a decade ago to become a bona-fide big-wave surfer.

Visit any of the major surfing websites (e.g., BillabongXXL, Surfline, Surfersvillage, Surfer Mag, ...etc.), and you will undoubtedly read about the heroic performances of world’s most famous big-wave surfers. 

Here is a brief recap of the final results:

Ride of the Year: Danilo Couto
Monster Paddle: Shane Dorian
Monster Tube Ride: Shane Dorian
Biggest Wave: Benjamin Sanchis
Wipeout of the Year: Mark Mathews
Men’s Performance Award: Sion Milosky
Women’s Performance Award: Keala Kennelly

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Matt Johnson May 12, 2011 6:14 am (Pacific time)

AMAZING. FLAWLESS, MAGNIFICENT! May 11, 2011 5:17 pm (Pacific time)

We're so proud of you Eric! This is a hard won honor and most people will never know how it feels, but you do, this is awesome! Congrats from all of us brother.

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