Waiting period for Eddie Aikau Invitational ends
WAIMEA BAY, O‘ahu — The 23rd annual Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau officially draws to a close today, which is the final day of the period. The holding period began December 1, 2007. Otherwise known as “The Eddie, “ this event requires a minimum of 20-foot surf (based on Hawaiian scale measurement, translating to 30-40 foot face waves) and is a one-day-only event. It has been held a total of seven times since its inception in the winter of 1984-85 at Sunset Beach.
The Hawaiian winter of 2007-08 will officially go down as the worst winter for waves on record, based upon the 40-year swell log that NOAA’S National Coastal Data Development Center in Honolulu has kept since 1968. Compared with an average year, this past winter had roughly double the number of small wave days (swell heights of less than seven feet), and approximately half the number of large to giant days (8 to 18 and higher feet).
During this year’s 91-day holding period for the Eddie, 72 percent of days of swell fell in the 12-foot or less category. Conversely, only one day of swell registered on NOAA’s log as being large enough to run the event: Sunday, January 13. But that episode coincided with adverse winds and an inconsistent, broad range of wave heights, therefore no competition. Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau Contest Director George Downing called the swell perfectly, cautiously assembling competitors and officials before closing the curtains on the Waimea Bay stage mid-morning.
Mother Nature wasn’t the only one toying with big-wave riders this winter, technology also dropped the ball when the all-important winter swell forecasting tool, Buoy 51001, located 170 nautical miles West Northwest of the island of Kaua‘i, dropped out, leaving organizers and surfers “blind” to developing swells and reliant upon traditional map analysis. Buoy 51001 only came back to life one week ago.
“Of course, we would love to have had the contest this year,” said Downing in a release. “But the one thing we’ll never do is compromise the standards we have set. It’s that 20-foot-plus standard that sets Waimea apart from other big-wave venues and that made the place special to Eddie.
“We also have the privilege with this event of holding the traditional Hawaiian opening ceremony and gathering the world’s best riders together each year in Aikau’s honor. That is a major part of what this is about. Big waves and a contest are the icing on the cake,” he said.
Held each year in honor of legendary Hawaiian waterman, Eddie Aikau, The Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational In Memory of Eddie Aikau gathers the most skillful and dynamic big-wave surfers from around the world. This year’s field of invitees was expanded for the first time in history, extending an invitation to 28 surfers, including four internationally acclaimed big-wave riders from South Africa, South America, Japan, and Europe.
Aikau, an indigenous Hawaiian, was one of surfing’s pioneer big-wave riders as well as Waimea Bay’s first official lifeguard. Through countless rescues and his demonstration of specialized waterman skills he became the North Shore’s most respected lifeguard and big-wave rider. His life was tragically lost in 1978, during a voyage of the Hokule’a (Star of Gladness) sailing canoe.
Kaua‘i’s Bruce Irons was the last surfer to win the invitational.