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On Saturday, August 12, at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Nigel, the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) honored three surf-industry legends for their work in and out of the water during the Waterman’s Ball to benefit the SIMA Environmental Fund.

Now in its 22nd year, the event attracted numerous celebrities including Pamela Anderson – with boyfriend, pro-surfer Jon Rose, Nia Peeples, Perry Farrell (Jane's Addiction) and emcee Sal Masekela.

Honored at the event were: Big wave surfing champion Greg Long as ‘Waterman of the Year’; Former Malibu mayor and environmental stalwart Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner as ‘Environmentalist of the Year’, and Hawaiian big wave pioneer and legendary shaper George Downing was honored with the ‘2011 Lifetime Achievement Award’.

Downing rightly earned the Lifetime Achievement Award. Among other things, he serves as the director for the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave contest, and is the president of the Surfing Education Association – which is dedicated to the preservation of our oceans, coral reefs, waves and beaches. He was met with a standing ovation and gave an acceptance speech that had the entire ballroom in tears. 

Look to the Stars was honored to attend the event and thrilled to speak with Waterman of the Year, Greg Long, who is often referred to as “the best young big wave surfer on the planet.” His resume includes winner of the 2003 Red Bull Big Wave Africa, 2008 champion of the Mavericks Surf Contest; 2009 winner of the most prestigious big wave event of all time, the Quiksilver Eddie Aikau, held at Waimea Bay Hawaii, and he has become one of only two surfers in the world to be invited to all three major big wave paddle events.

How does it feel to receive this award from the surf industry?

I’m extremely excited, honored and very humbled. It’s one thing to win a contest or ride a big wave, but to be acknowledged by all my peers as well as the entire surf industry for my actions out of the water – as much as in the water – is definitely flattering.

Do you think the surf industry is passionate about ‘giving back’ because it’s more connected to the oceans?

Absolutely. It’s an industry that’s built upon just that – the ocean – and its recreational resources. It would be naïve to build such an amazing industry and not give back and protect those resources for generations to come. This event has been going on for 22 years and it gets larger every year – events that have spawned off it come from all corners of the world, so I’m proud to say I’m a surfer and to be part of this ‘tribe’ where it’s just as much about giving back as it is receiving enjoyment.

You support a variety of surf-related organizations?

Yes, Surfrider Foundation, Save the Waves, Waves for Water, Wildcoast and the San Onofre Foundation – which is a non-profit my father helped set up to protect and preserve San Clemente State Parks and the Southern California coastline. Those are the main ones I’ve been working with this year.

If you could ask people to do one thing, what would it be?

I think the simple thing is to educate yourself and then to educate others. Once you have that power behind yourself and behind others, your actions will just follow suit.

Also at the event, was Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Farrell with his wife and kids: “I’m here to support the surf industry, help clean up the water and to actually just to chill out a bit,” he told us, “I just got back from Lollapalooza and ironically its always the same time of the year that Lollapalooza ends and the Waterman’s Ball is held – so I’m happy I could be here and lend support.”

In total, the Waterman’s Ball raised over $400,000 for 20 ocean conservation organizations. The event is part of the Waterman’s Weekend, which begins with the Waterman’s Classic Golf Tournament and culminates with the annual Waterman’s Ball and auction.

Many thanks to Mandy and her team at SIMA, the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Nigel for their hospitality and all attendees for keeping our oceans clean.

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