Everything You Need to Know About the Eddie Aikau Surfing Competition

The big-wave contest is rare, but when it goes off in Hawaii on Thursday, it'll be epic

Feb 9, 2016
Outside
Outside Magazine
30 foot waves

Surfers at the 25th Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational in December 2009. It was the biggest swell on the North Shore in 10 years with up to 50-foot waves.    Photo: Elyse Butler/Aurora Photos

Tomorrow, the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau surfing contest, known simply as the Eddie, will run at Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu for the first time since 2009. This year's big-wave tournament will feature 28 of the best surfers from around the world, including Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, and reigning champion Greg Long. Contest coordinators don't green-light the event for anything less than 40-foot waves, and Thursday's swell is anticipated to bring waves at least that size.

Quiksilver had initially called the contest for February 10, but the anticipated swell arrived in the middle of the night. "It has taken us six years to pull the trigger, but this is the first swell we have seen that is truly lining up as an Eddie swell," said event director Glen Moncata in an announcement on February 8. The current swell looks like it should hit the shore in the morning and afternoon. 

If this is your first time hearing about the contest, here's all you need to know to appreciate what is shaping up to be an epic competition.

The Eddie Is Super Rare
It's impossible to predict exactly when a massive, contest-worthy swell will arrive, so organizers open a three-month waiting period each winter. They're looking for surf that's at least 20-foot Hawaiian, which means 40-foot faces. That doesn't happen all that often. This will be just the 9th time the event has run in its 31-year history. Californian Greg Long won in 2009 in front of more than 30,000 people watching from the beach. 

Eddie Aikau Is a Legend
The term "waterman" gets thrown around a lot these days. Eddie Aikau was the real deal. He was the first lifeguard hired to patrol the North Shore, covering the seven-mile stretch of beaches from Sunset to Haleiwa. He was as comfortable pulling hapless tourists to safety as he was charging big, outer-reef winter surf. In 1978, the 31-year-old Aikau joined an expedition to sail a replica of an old Polynesian canoe 2,500 miles to Tahiti. During the trip the canoe sprung a leak. Aikau pulled off his jacket and paddled for help. He was never seen again. 

Eddie Aikau's Brother Is Competing
Yeah, Kelly Slater, Greg Long, Shane Dorian, Bruce Irons, and John John Florence will all be surfing, but 66-year-old Clyde Aikau, Eddie's younger brother, is the nostalgic-man's champ. He won the event back in 1986. He's the guy you should be rooting for.

You Can Watch It Live
Whether it's Michael Ho pulling into the shore break in 1998-99, Brock Little wiping out on the biggest wave of the day in 1989-1990, or Darryl Virostko falling from the sky in 2004-05, an event named for an icon always produces iconic moments. Watch it the surfing contest here.

Filed To: Surfing, Events, Athletes, Hawaii

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