I’ve been parked in front of my laptop most of the day watching live coverage of the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau (rhymes with wow!). This is a surfing competition held at Waimea Bay on the north shore of the island of Oahu. The event is an invitational and the holding period runs from December through February. However, the Eddie doesn’t “go” unless the surf reaches the height requirements: waves must reach a minimum height of 20 feet (Hawaiian measurement – this is based on open-ocean swells and can result in wave face heights of 30 to 40 feet). The man himself – Eddie Aikau – was born on Maui where he began surfing at age 11. He moved to Oahu where he became a world-famous surfer and the first official lifeguard on the island at Waimea Bay. Eddie died at the age of 31 after the Hokule’a canoe he was aboard capsized, dumping the entire crew. Eddie paddled away to go for help. While the crew was eventually rescued, Eddie was never seen again. You can read about the history of the Eddie HERE.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Eddie. In that time, the event has only been completed seven times. Most years, the waves are just not high enough.
This year, the ocean was generous and today was an epic Eddie.
Now, I’m not a huge sports fan. The older I get, the more disillusioned I am with professional sports. I think many professional athletes in the “major” sports are overhyped, overpaid, and over-full-of-themselves. Since my father died, I’ve been watching less professional football, NASCAR, golf, and tennis. Sweetie is not a big professional sports fan, so we just don’t watch much.
But I am a big fan of a good competition. Give me my summer and winter Olympics, some Top Chef, a little Amazing Race, and, of course, loads and loads of poker on ESPN. I love watching the best of the best show off their skills doing something I will probably never be able to do. And as a certified news junkie, I cannot help but be inundated with anticipation of the possible running of the Eddie when I watch my local newscasters every year around this time. So, when word came last week from our weather guy (a surfer) that some huge swells were heading towards the islands, I was as excited as a non-surfer could get. Sweetie and I even braved the crowded roads on Sunday to go over to one of Maui’s best spot to catch surfers. The best surf spot on Maui is Jaws but it’s a pain to get to, so Hookipa Lookout works for most folks.
And today? Today, the Eddie was a go!
The news came before 8:00 a.m. this morning and by 8, I was sitting at my laptop with the live webcast watching the heats. What a day!
The competitors each went out twice in groups of seven. Each group had their time out on the water to catch four waves for scoring. Then the next group. Then the next group. And so on – from 8:00 a.m to about 4:00 p.m. Each surfer could end up with 8 scores and they took (I think) the top 4 scores for a final score. The surfers have 8 chances, which is good because some waves were bigger than others. And there were some spectacular wipeouts today.
The competition was AMAZING. Simply incredible. The Quicksilver group had several camera crews set up from shore and provided non-stop coverage of the waves and surfers. Again, I am not a surfer – haven’t even spent a lot of time following the sport but wow, this was pretty cool.
- I saw some very gracious competitors today. Every guy that came off the beach and stopped for an interview was fairly humble and gracious. They paid tribute to Eddie. They said they were honored to be invited. Of course, these guys are super pros and may be as arrogant as sin. But then, the pure light of competition adrenaline in an athlete’s eyes can be inspiring when they are in the thick of it, arrogant or no.
- Wow oh wow – Clyde Aikau! Wow. Eddie’s younger brother was one of the competitors today. He was amazing. He got at least one great wave, which should be in the video of Heat 2. Keep in mind, Eddie’s younger brother Clyde is now 60 years old. He won the event in memory of his brother in 1986. He is 60 years old and out on the massive waves showing the young pros and grommets HOW IT IS DONE. Wow.
- The waves were high yesterday and the director made the call – No Go. Disappointing for the surfers but, in light of the conditions today – good decision. The wave sets were big today and I think the overall conditions were much better than yesterday. The commentators, the competitors, and even my surfing-happy weatherman on the news tonight all said that this may have been the best ever run of the Eddie.
- Crazy crowds. One of the competitors said this was the largest crowd he has ever seen. At one point, one of the Quicksilver commentators said the police estimated the crowd at 30,000. Hard to gage from the video coverage. It didn’t look that crowded and I don’t know how that many people can cram into the viewing spaces along Waimea Bay. But I believe it. I cannot even imagine how many workers on Oahu called in “sick” today. An Australian couple on the local news tonight said they walked about five miles from where they parked their car. I’ve driven along the north shore before – I think it’s just one way in each direction the whole way. I can easily imagine having to hoof it for 5 or 6 miles today. Crazy.
- (edited) Big waves. When the big sets would come in, the surfers were waiting for the biggest waves. The commentators would like of laugh and say to each other – “Look at that! That’s a 20-foot wave and no one is going for it.” They were waiting for something bigger. I’m not exactly sure how the scoring was done, but I think the surfers basically have to successfully get to the bottom of big waves. No big manuevers or theatrics. Just make it down. On the videos, when you see one of the surfers riding the wave waaaaaay out back to shore, that generally meant that it was his last wave of the set and he was getting out of the water. The crowd loved it, of course.
- The competition – speaks for itself. The video clips are at the Quicksilver site.
Heat 2 has a clip of Clyde Aikau. I think Heat 8 shows the two perfect 100 scores during the last set of the competition.
(Updated) I still can’t seem to embed the videos but Heat 8 is definitely worth taking a look at. These were huge sets and both of the perfect 100 scores of the day came from this set – one from Greg Long and one from Ramon Navarro.