The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau is a one day big wave surfing event. It only runs if the waves at Waimea Bay, Oahu reach a minimum height of 20 feet. This year the official holding period is December 1, 2011 – February 29, 2012.
Eddie Aikau was born on Maui and first learned to surf at Kahului Harbor. He moved with his family to Honolulu in 1959. Eddie and his younger brother Clyde began surfing in Waikiki with boards they made from marine ply. When he was 16 he left school and began working at the Dole pineapple cannery. He made enough money at Dole to buy his first surfboard.
In 1968 he become the first lifeguard to work on the North Shore of Oahu. He covered all of the beaches between Sunset and Haleiwa and saved hundreds of lives. In 1971 he was assigned to Waimea Bay. No lives were lost while he was on duty and he braved waves that often reached 30 feet high. He was named Lifeguard of the Year in 1971. Eddie Aikau became famous for surfing the big Hawaiian surf and was known for surfing for 8 hours at a time without a break. He won several awards including the 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship.
|Eddie Aikau taken by Dan Merkel
In 1978, the Polynesian Voyaging Society was seeking volunteers for a 30 day, 2,500-mile journey to retrace the ancient route of the Polynesian migration between Hawaii and the Tahitian islands. Eddie Aikau eagerly joined the voyage as a crew member. The Hokule’a left Hawaii on March 16, 1978. The double-hulled voyaging canoe developed a leak in the starboard hull and later capsized about twelve miles south of the island of Molokai. Aikau insisted on getting help. He made a leash of nylon rope for his big rescue board and paddled toward Lanai saying “Don’t worry, I can do it. I can get to land.” A commercial airplane spotted the Hokule’a and the crew was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard but Aikau was never seen again.
In the winter of 1984/85, the first Eddie Aikau Memorial was held at Sunset Beach and won by Denton Miyamura. The next winter it was relocated to Waimea Bay and won by Eddie’s younger brother Clyde Aikau. The Eddie Aikau Memorial invites only 28 big wave riders to participate in two rounds of competition. Open ocean swells in Waimea Bay must be forecast to reach a minimum of 20 feet consistently during a single day during the competition window. Because of this requirement, The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau has only been held eight times during the history of the event, most recently on December 8, 2009.
When the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau is called on the participants have a 12 hour window to arrive at Waimea Bay to check in the morning of the competition. The tournament consists of two rounds of about three or four waves each during the competition day. The best four scoring waves over two rounds will make up the participant’s total score.
Although the tournament has only been held 8 times, the official Opening Ceremony takes place every year. Each year on December 1 surfing’s greatest gather at Waimea Bay. The 28 Invitees, 24 Alternates, surf legends, and the family of Eddie Aikau gather to pay sincere respects to Eddie.
|Opening Ceremony – Photo from http://quiksilverlive.com/eddieaikau/2012
Many are familiar with the phrase “Eddie Would Go.” According to historian Mac Simpson, “Aikau was a legend on the North Shore, pulling people out of waves that no one else would dare to. That’s where the saying came from — Eddie would go, when no else would or could. Only Eddie dared.”During the first Eddie contest the waves were huge and the conditions were dangerous. The contest organizers were discussing whether to put it on, Mark Foo looked at the conditions and said “Eddie would go.” The phrase stuck and the Eddie went.
Hawaiian priest Billy Mitchell was moving at this year’s opening ceremony, “There will be waves but those of you here today know that this is about much more than that. Eddie had a passion. He had a passion about living and loving the ocean. Whether you surf or you don’t surf, you are drawn to people like Eddie in life. People with big mana. We have to remember, and we cannot forget, someone who lived this way. Eddie never left people behind. It was his way. We need that in this life, especially now. It’s a way to surf; it’s a way to live.
This event is Eddie’s story, and it is a ripple in the ocean to travel around the world.”