It’s that time of year again on the North Shore of Oahu, when the notorious big waves start pumping in! Time also for prestigious surf meets that take place at spots like Sunset, Pipeline, and Waimea. One of these meets is especially dear to those in Hawaii, since it honors a very respected Hawaiian surfer and lifeguard, Eddie Aikau. The Quicksilver Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational had its “opening” just last week at Waimea Bay, with a ceremony honoring Eddie, but the surf meet itself does not always take place. The surf conditions must be just right and waves must exceed 20 feet in height before this event takes place!
Why do we have this special meet in honor of Eddie? Well, you have probably seen or heard the saying “Eddie would go” if you have spent any time shopping or at the beaches of Oahu. As a lifeguard at Waimea Bay, Eddie saved countless lives and braved the big waves of Waimea many times. He was also an excellent surfer. Growing up on Maui and Oahu, he began surfing at a young age and when he grew up he became a pioneer of big wave surfing. However, that is not the end of the story, because in addition to his talents and his dedication as a surfer and lifeguard, Eddie is remembered for the selfless act that took his life. Eddie was a part of the crew of the Hokule`a, which set sail in March of 1978. He was proud to be on board and to connect with his Hawaiian heritage through the experience of sailing this traditional, double-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe. Sadly, a storm arose and the boat capsized in the dangerous, rough waters of the Molokai Channel. In a heroic effort, Eddie volunteered to swim for help. The crew of the Hokule`a was eventually spotted and rescued, but Eddie was never seen again. Honoring the bravery of Eddie Aikau is the reason for “The Eddie”, as this invitation only surf meet is affectionately known. Although scheduled every year, the surf does not always meet the heights necessary, as we said before, and the last Eddie Invitational Meet held was in 2009. If conditions are right between now and February 28th, we will see this impressive contest occur again, in memory of Eddie!