Waimea Bay, HAWAII — The world’s most celebrated big wave riders gathered under heavy skies at Waimea Bay today for the traditional opening ceremony of the 26th annual Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, fueled by Monster Energy. December of every year, during the Hawaiian winter, is when attention turns to the prestigious Invitee list of 28 surfers who are asked to ride mammoth waves at Waimea like Aikau did in his time.
But this year it is the fresh loss of former invitees Andy Irons and Marvin Foster, both from Hawaii, that has the surfing world reflecting upon the importance of gatherings like these and the role they play in honoring the past, respecting the present and looking forward to the future.
“It is the passing of these brothers that once again reminds us of the life and loss of Eddie,” said Hawaiian Kahu Billy Mitchell, flanked by the Aikau family.
“But as we stand in this circle, we realize that this circle, like life, is a continuum of those who have gone on already, those who are here, and those young brave surfers yet to come.”
Among those gathered today were defending event champion Greg Long (San Clemente, CA),and former Eddie winners Kelly Slater (Cocoa Beach, FL), Bruce Irons (Hawaii), Ross Clarke-Jones (Australia), Clyde Aikau, Noah Johnson, and Keone Downing (Hawaii).
“Whether the event happens or not, it doesn’t matter because this is the most important part of it: the ceremony,” said former Eddie winner Ross Clarke-Jones, “When the (contest) does happen, it’s extraordinary, it takes it to another level, but this day is guaranteed to happen every year and we’re here together again.
“Achieving the win was something I lived 14 years in the (Hawaiian) islands trying for. But it was a satisfaction point in my life that felt amazing. There’s something so special about this Bay.
“This is my 25th Eddie, I’m 44 years old, and I feel like a kid again.”
The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau will be held on one day between December 1, 2010 and February 28, 2011, when waves exceed the 20-foot minimum threshold and Invitees contend for the $98,000 prize purse. Monster Energy will be presenting the Monster Drop Award for the surfer who makes the most critical drop and rides out of it during the event. The judges will determine the winner the day of the competition and will present the chosen surfer with a unique Monster Drop Specialty Award.
Held in honor of the legendary Hawaiian waterman, Eddie Aikau, The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau gathers the most skillful and dynamic big-wave surfers from around the globe. The Eddie is a surfer’s ultimate challenge, employing unassisted manpower to physically paddle into and ride giant waves.
The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau is the world’s longest running and most prestigious big-wave invitational and is the only one sanctioned by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), the governing body of professional surfing.
What began as a local tribute to one of Hawaii’s favorite surfing sons in 1984, soon took on a life all its own and the story is the reason why this event continues to grow. Eddie Aikau has come to personify all of the human qualities we honor today: respect, humility, passion, and a love for fellow man. Waimea Bay was the canvas upon which his story is told each year, in his memory. For over 25 years, it is a story that has traversed the globe to touch hearts, minds and imaginations: a life lived with passion, dedicated with meaning, and exited from heroically.
Just 31 years of age when he lost his life in an attempt to save others, Aikau has physically been gone longer – 33 years – than he was here. But far from being forgotten, his life, the waves he rode, and the lives he saved on his ancestral grounds at Waimea Bay have become a part of history, passed on from person to person around the world like a wave seeking shore.
The Eddie has run just eight times in 25 years. You don’t want to miss it when the Bay calls the momentous day. Go to Quiksilver.com/Eddie for swell updates, happenings from the North Shore, and to sign up for text alerts to make sure you’re the first to know when the Bay calls the day.