The Eddie Will Go! Big-wave contest 1st since 2009

The anticipation for a yearly spectacle, like the Super Bowl or World Series, is a feeling we grow accustomed to. It’s always exciting and we get to circle a certain date on the calendar, eyeing its approach with each passing month, week or day.

(And as a quick note regarding this past Sunday’s Super Bowl — I was flat out wrong. Historically, I’ve gone with the dominant defense but I felt quite certain in my Panthers pick. My forecast was way off. Thankfully I had the best poke bowl of my life at my Super Bowl party, which helped nurture my fractured ego.)

The anticipation for an event that may or may not take place, like today’s Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, is something else entirely. There really aren’t many similar examples in pro sports. The contest doesn’t go unless the circumstances are just right, so it’s always a will it/won’t it proposition.

The only analogy I can make is when wrestling fans wait for the “Money In The Bank” champion to cash in their contract for a title shot. Yes, this is where I confess that I sometimes still tune in to WWE — #ThankYouDanielBryan. It’s a crude comparison, but for those who follow the sport, it’s always in the back of our minds without having a designated date.

This Hawaiian winter has seen more epic swells than we’ve experienced the past few years and with each influx of heavy water, that thought has crept closer and closer to reality.

Will “The Eddie” go?

Today, for the first time since 2009, the most prestigious big-wave event in the world has the green light. The forecast model is showing another monster swell that will come through Waimea Bay and organizers determined on Monday that it met their standards.

The fact that there is a green call for today leans towards the surreal. I moved to Kauai in 2009, so The Eddie ran my very first year on island. At the time, I didn’t have an appreciation for its scarcity and its sacred tradition. I had never seen the contest window open and close without once even hinting that the invitees should be eyeing plane tickets. I hadn’t experienced that will it or won’t it tug-of-war, which has been won by the won’t side for five straight years now.

Today we get to slightly alter the “Eddie would go” hypothetical and experience the “Eddie will go” reality.

As an invite-only event, just having one’s name among the field of competitors is a true honor. Only those considered the most worthy big-wave chargers make the cut, which makes each heat a who’s who of highly-respected surfers.

Kauai’s Bruce Irons and Reef McIntosh are both among that select group. McIntosh is slated for the second heat, along with Kelly Slater, Tom Carroll, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Dave Wassel, Jamie O’Brien and Aaron Gold.

Irons, who won this event back in 2004, will be in the fourth heat with Makuakai Rothman, Ian Walsh, Albee Layer, Kala Alexander, Garrett McNamara and Jeremy Flores.

2009 champion Greg Long starts in heat one with Shane Dorian, Kohl Christensen, Ramon Navarro, Sunny Garcia, Ross Clarke-Jones and Jamie Mitchell.

John John Florence has his first Eddie paddle in heat three with Clyde Aikau, Mark Healey, Nathan Fletcher, Noah Johnson, Peter Mel and Takayuki Wakita.

At a time when brave and willing watermen are as important as ever around Hawaii, today we have a chance to commemorate maybe the bravest and most willing these waters have ever known.

Thank you, Eddie Aikau.

•••

David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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