History made at emotional Eddie Aikau big-wave contest
The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave invitational was held today and there was no shortage of awe-inspiring and emotional moments.
With wave heights reaching up to 50 feet, drama was inevitable, but recent events that happened outside the lineup gave bigger meaning to the memorial surf contest.
Each year, the contest has the chance of running if a swell is able to consistently pump out 20- to 30-foot waves for eight hours, because that’s when Eddie would go. It honors the late Hawaiian waterman and lifeguard Eddie Aikau, who died while trying to get help for his crewmates who left on an ill-fated voyage.
It’s been held only nine times in the past 31 years.
The contest also honors iconic surfers, and the recent passing of pro surfer Brock Little was heavy on everyone’s mind.
“It was an incredible day,” big-wave surfer Dave Kalama said, and for quite a few reasons.
FIRST OFF, IT WAS ACTUALLY HELD
People began arriving as early as 3:30 a.m. to get a spot on the beach. Photo: Courtesy of World Surf League
There were only three days left in the contest window for it to be held, and there was a false alarm two weeks ago.
Earlier this week, Hawaii was getting pounded by a giant swell, but the wind conditions were rendering the surf too chaotic to actually be rideable. Luckily, all the elements aligned and the contest was held for the first time in seven years.
SURFERS HONORED PRO SURFER BROCK LITTLE, WHO DIED A WEEK AGO
After pulling into one of the only barrels of the day, Kelly Slater teared up talking about his ride, saying he wanted to get a barrel in honor of Little.
AT 66 YEARS OLD, EDDIE'S BROTHER CLYDE AIKAU PADDLED OUT ON A SINGLE-FIN
He announced it would be the last time he participated in a contest, and that it was a great day to be out. Aikau said it was one of the best and biggest days he’d seen at Waimea Bay in his 40 years of surfing there.
HAWAIIAN JOHN FLORENCE BROUGHT THE TITLE HOME
In Florence’s first chance to compete in the Eddie, he won the competition. He hails from Honolulu, and the 23-year-old said he was ecstatic to get to surf with his heroes.
IT WAS THE FIRST CONTEST HELD SINCE INFLATABLE VESTS WERE INVENTED
The vests are filled with air canisters that inflate when pulled. Photo: Courtesy of World Surf League
This year’s contest was different for surfers, since it’s probably the safest they’ve ever been, which was lucky considering the wave heights. Surfers now wear inflatable vests that allow them to pull a cord and immediately float to the top.
The technology hadn’t yet been invented the last time the Eddie was held, meaning competitors likely had a lot more confidence paddling for the giants.