“Eddie”, a big wave competition, took place at Waimea Beach for the first time in six years this past weekend. The waves reached a record height as many of them reached to be 60 feet. In order for a competition to be considered an “Eddie”, the waves must be over forty feet high and be sustainable all day. This year, El-Nino played a big part to the height of these waves as the weather pattern fueled the water and the creation of them.
Big-Wave surfing has consistently drawn in a big crowd to the beaches of Hawaii. A record number of people lined the beach to watch 28 professional surfers engage the monster surges of the bay. It’s estimated that over 25,000 people came to the beach in awe of getting the chance to see the “Eddie”. Some people camped out for 24 hours to get a prime view of the competition.
Many people do not know the legend behind the heroic person it honors. Eddie Aikau was a Waimea Bay lifeguard and a surfing pioneer when it came to Big Wave surfing. The legend says that not a single person passed during his tenure as a lifeguard. At 31 years old, he lost his life retracing the route from Hawaii to Tahiti; something his Polynesian ancestors did. The canoe Aikau and his team were in capsized twelve miles off the coast of the Hawaiian island, Molokai. Eddie was last seen paddling on his surfboard in an attempt to seek help.
The competition was named after him to honor his contributions to the surfing community and the way he would brave waves that others were too afraid to. The competition name was cemented in 1984 after organizers of the competition debated if the conditions of the water were too dangerous. One professional surfer responded to the organizers stating that Eddie would go. Eddie’s brother, Clyde Aikau, is the only surfer to have entered the previous eight competitions. At the age of 66, this year was the last year he will be participating.
Besides the return of the “Eddie”, the competition had the largest payout in big wave surfing with a prize of $75,000. This year’s winner was John John Florence, a 23 year old native of Hawaii. He scored 301 points out of a possible 400. It was his first “Eddie” and a dream come true for him. He tweeted after the competition that “Such an honor. Thank you Aikau family, Brock, and Hawaiian water patrol ! A day I won’t forget.”