The North Shore: The Eddie
6 a.m. text: “The contest is on.”
The skies cleared up, it is beautiful again and today the final rounds of the Roxy Pro were held. I finished my work and made it out to Sunset Beach by 10. I missed the early rounds of the contest, but was there to see Sofia Mulanovich win. Sofia is one of my favorite people, and she is pushing the women’s tour. When she won the world tour, I wished I could have seen her win a contest in person. I had the opportunity to watch her surf her home waves in Peru, but I wished I could have seen her in a contest setting. It was neat to witness it today.
By the finals, the women were surfing in some of the biggest waves ever for a women’s WCT contest. And they were bigger than the men surfed later in the day, which rarely happens. If ever. In the semi-finals, Megan Abubo wiped out and tore muscles around her ribs. It was an intense few minutes as she was brought in on a rescue ski. Sofia was the only girl who snuck her way into a barrel and caught one monster of a wave in the final heat that put her over the top.
But that’s not my Wish moment. That happened after the contest, at Waimea Bay.
I had the privilege of attending the opening ceremonies for the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau contest. A little background: Eddie Aikau was, among many things, the first lifeguard at Waiamea and an all-around waterman. He was a legend on the North Shore. On March 17, 1978, he disappeared at sea and his body was never found. (For the full story, check out the book Eddie Would Go.)
In his honor, a big-wave contest, more commonly called The Eddie, is held at the end of the year. It marks the unofficial start of big-wave season. A three-month holding period is opened with a formal ceremony attended by the surfers invited to participate. However, the waves must reach 40 feet in order to hold the contest, so it doesn’t happen every year. The Eddie last ran in 2004, but there’s some indication a big swell is on its way.
The ceremony is legend in itself. The best big-wave surfers in the world—Bruce Irons, Mark Healey, Ian Walsh, Koby Abberton (who I’m traveling to Australia on Friday to write about)—the Aikau family and hundreds of locals and industry folks gather on the beach.
First, the surfers form a semi-circle and are introduced. Then Eddie’s sister spoke and the family was introduced. Then a traditional Hawaiian priest delivered an incredible speech about Eddie’s life, what he meant to Hawaii and surfing and how he lives on through the acts of each of the men standing in that semi-circle.
Then the surfers walked down to the water, paddled out about 200 yards and formed a circle. Then they removed the leis from around their necks, laid them in the water, said a few words and paddled back in to shore as the sun set behind them. It was beautiful. It was moving. And it was so energizing. I felt really honored to be part of an event steeped in so much history. You left the beach filled with Eddie’s spirit.
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