The Bay Calls The Day

Words by Mat Arney & images by WSL



greg long surfing a big wave in the 2009 quiksilver in memory of eddie aikau contest at waimea bay

On Wednesday February 10th 2016 The Eddie will go. The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau has run only eight other times in its 31-year history since the winter season of 1984/85, but swell forecasters are predicting open ocean swells exceeding 20 feet to produce waves with 40 foot faces breaking in Waimea Bay on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

“At this point it appears that the swell will peak during the overnight hours from Wednesday,with the largest waves during daylight hours showing late Wednesday and early Thursday. Model guidance puts this in the same ballpark as the swell from this past Friday.”

Surfline lead forecaster, Kevin Wallis

The Eddie is perhaps surfing’s most iconic and prestigious event; it is an institution, and being invited to compete is one of the greatest honours that a surfer can receive. Every year 28 surfers receive an invitation from the Aikau family; invitees are selected on merit and big wave paddle prowess, and every single one will drop everything to travel to Waimea Bay for the opening ceremony in early December when they receive their invitation, and then again if and when the event is called on. Each surfer paddles out twice to surf against six other competitors in two rounds. In each heat a surfer can ride up to four waves, and with no interference rules there are often multiple surfers on a good wave. Each wave is judged out of 100 and at the end of their second heat a competitor’s final score is taken as the sum of their best four wave scores overall, meaning that any heat has the potential to crown a winner. The Eddie last ran in 2009 and was won by Californian Greg Long, who scored a perfect 100 in the final heat of the day to take the win.

“It’s going to be an honor and a privilege to paddle out again and share some waves with my best friends and more importantly, honor the incredible life and legacy of Eddie.”

Greg Long

Edward Ryon Makuahanai Aikau was a Hawaiian waterman who was at the forefront of big-wave surfing in the late 1960s and 1970s – a time often referred to as big-wave surfing’s “lost era”. Aikau was low-key, but his calm manner and natural ability when riding huge waves on Oahu’s North Shore caused him to rise to prominence in the underground world of big-wave surfing, with his performance on November 19th, 1967, still regarded by many as the biggest that anyone has ever ridden Waimea. In 1968 Eddie and Butch Van Artsdalen became the North Shore’s first lifeguards, responsible for the entire coastline between Sunset and Haliewa. Eddie became lifeguard at Waimea Bay, and was joined by his younger brother Clyde in 1969. In the ten years until Eddie’s death in 1978 not one life was lost at Waimea during the brother’s tenure. During that time Eddie surfed every major swell to hit Hawaii and also competed in contests on the fledgling IPS tour, primarily in Hawaii but also travelling to Australia, South America and apartheid era South Africa in 1972 where he experiencing racism on account of his pure Hawaiian heritage. He was a six-time finalist of the Duke Invitational, held at Sunset Beach, winning the event in 1977. Aikau was a respected figure on the North Shore and developed a reputation as a peacemaker, most notably intervening in the “Bustin’ Down The Door” episode of 1976-77 to calm tensions between local Hawaiian surfers and Australian professionals Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew and Ian Cairns. Around that time, at aged thirty, he became involved in the revival of traditional Hawaiian culture. As a descendant of Hewhewa, the kahuna nui (high priest) of Kings Kamehameah I and II and the custodian and caretaker of the Waimea valley and bay, Aikau was a proud Hawaiian and his credentials as a skilled waterman led to him being selected to crew the traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule’a. The Hokule’a’s 1978 voyage aimed to retrace the 2500-mile voyage that ancient Polynesians had taken when they had arrived at the Hawaiian Islands from Tahiti, using traditional navigation techniques. Setting sail on March 16th, 1978, Hokule’a soon encountered heavy seas and developed a leak in one of it’s hulls, causing it to eventually capsize 20 miles west of Lanai. Having lost all of their provisions and the emergency radio, after twelve hours Eddie decided to take his surfboard and attempt to paddle to Lanai to raise the alarm, taking his lifejacket off to make it easier to paddle. It was the last time that anyone would see him. The U.S. Coast Guard eventually rescued the crew of Hokule’a, but despite the largest air-sea search operation in Hawaiian history Eddie Aikau’s body was never recovered.

Seven year’s later in 1985, the first memorial contest was held at Sunset Beach (won by Hawaiian Denton Miyamura), with the contest moving to Waimea the following year where Eddie’s brother Clyde took the win. Waimea has been the event’s venue ever since, and tomorrow it will once again see the world’s best big wave surfers paddle out in memory of Eddie Aikau.

You can view a list of this year’s invitees and the draw for rounds one and two here, whilst the event will be streamed live by both the WSL and the event sponsor, Quiksilver.


Leave a Comment!