Feb

26

The Eddie Went, from Jeff Watson

February 26, 2016 |

Yesterday was one of the best days of my life. I was healed enough to be able to go surfing for the first time in months, Ceres treated me well in the market, and The Eddie went, and I watched it on a screen.

The Eddie Aikau Memorial is the most important contest in surfing. It is the World Series, Superbowl, NBA Final, Kentucky Derby all wrapped up in one. The Eddie is so important that it is not run every year, only running when the conditions at Waimea Bay are perfect. The contest was named in honor of Eddie Aikau, the Hawaiian big wave surfer and lifeguard who lost his life in 1978 during an ill fated canoe voyage from Honolulu to Tahiti. The 9-man canoe capsized around 15 miles from shore, and Eddie tried to paddle to Molokai to get help. The people on the canoe were rescued by a Coast Guard cutter, but Eddie was never seen again.

In 1985, surf giant Quicksilver put together a big wave invitational contest in memory of Eddie Aikau. First held at Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore, the second year brought it to Waimea Bay where Eddie was the lifeguard for many years. In 31 years, the contest has been run only 9 times, despite having a 90 day window. The last time it was run was in 2009. The surfing tribe started getting excited last week when the models showed a huge El Niño swell showing up this week. Not only was it a huge swell, it was one of the biggest, with waves reaching 30-40'+. The conditions were perfect, and the waves were well formed, Waimea at it's finest.

The contest consists of 28 invitees each surfing in two rounds of 60 minute heats with only 6 other surfers. Each contestant was only allowed a maximum of 4 waves per heat. There were 5 judges that scored each wave 1-20, with the sum of their scores being the total for the wave.  The contest started at 8AM Hawaiian Time and was finished in a little over 8 hours. It was the best big wave contest I've ever seen. The contest was very therapeutic for the surfing tribe and the contestants who last week lost a popular big wave surfer, Brock Little, to cancer. Much mention was made of Brock, and the Hawaiians attributed the good swell to him, naming it the "Brock Little Swell." Thousands of people were at the beach and the Kam Highway, watching the spectacle.

The heats were very exciting, with many good rides, and very scary wipeouts. The waves were so big that big sets would blow out the entire bay, sending jet skis racing to shore to avoid the 20' whitewater.

All the usual suspects like Kelly Slater, Peter Mel, Shane Dorian, Tom Carroll, et al, were competing. A bonus and the crowd favorite was 66-year-old Clyde Aikau, past winner and younger brother of Eddie. Clyde put on a great show, totally ripping up the waves in a very old school Hawaiian style. Ultimately, John John Florence won the contest, bringing the title back to Hawaii. Florence is billed as the next Kelly Slater, and his performance was spectacular. Incidentally, Slater came in 5th. Clyde Aikau came in 20th place. A horrible wipeout from Mason Ho deserves a look. And here are some highlights of the best waves in the contest.

The 9th running of the contest was spectacular, and was a great time for for all contestants and spectators.


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