Big waves to deliver storied Hawai‘i surf contest The Eddie

  • FILE - Ramon Navarro, of Chile, paddles out to ride in the Eddie Aikau big-wave surfing contest in Waimea Bay near Haliewa, Hawaii on Feb. 25, 2016. One of the world’s most prestigious and storied surfing contests is expected to be held Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Hawaii for the first time in seven years. And this year female surfers will be competing alongside the men for the first time in the 39-year history of The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

  • FILE - Participants line up their surf boards to pray during the In Memony of Eddie Aikau opening ceremony in Waimea Bay near Haleiwa, Hawaii, Nov. 30, 2006. One of the world’s most prestigious and storied surfing contests is expected to be held on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Hawaii for the first time in seven years - if conditions are right. And female surfers will be competing alongside the men for the first time in the 39-year history of The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. (AP Photo/Lucy Pemoni, File)

  • FILE - Sunny Garcia, of Hawaii, rides a wave to shore during the Eddie Aikau big-wave surfing contest in Waimea Bay near Haliewa, Hawaii on Feb. 25, 2016. One of the world’s most prestigious and storied surfing contests is expected to be held Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Hawaii for the first time in seven years. And this year female surfers will be competing alongside the men for the first time in the 39-year history of The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

  • FILE - Participants in the In Memory of Eddie Aikau walk out of the ocean at sunset after the opening ceremony in Waimea Bay near Haleiwa, Hawaii, on Nov. 30, 2006. One of the world’s most prestigious and storied surfing contests is expected to be held on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Hawaii for the first time in seven years - if conditions are right. And female surfers will be competing alongside the men for the first time in the 39-year history of The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. (AP Photo/Lucy Pemoni, File)

  • FILE - Ross Clarke-Jones, of Australia, rides out of a wave during the Eddie Aikau big-wave surfing contest in Waimea Bay near Haliewa, Hawaii on Feb. 25, 2016. One of the world’s most prestigious and storied surfing contests is expected to be held Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Hawaii for the first time in seven years. And this year female surfers will be competing alongside the men for the first time in the 39-year history of The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

  • FILE - Jamie Mitchell, right, and Ross Clarke-Jones, both of Australia, surf in the Eddie Aikau big-wave surfing contest in Waimea Bay near Haliewa, Hawaii on Feb. 25, 2016. One of the world’s most prestigious and storied surfing contests is expected to be held Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Hawaii for the first time in seven years. And this year female surfers will be competing alongside the men for the first time in the 39-year history of The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

HONOLULU — One of the world’s most prestigious and storied surfing contests is expected to be held Sunday in Hawai‘i for the first time in seven years.

And this year female surfers will be competing alongside the men for the first time in the 39-year history of The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational.

The event — alternatively known simply as The Eddie — is a one-day contest held in Waimea Bay on O‘ahu’s North Shore only when the surf is consistently large enough during the winter big wave surfing season from mid-December through mid-March. The wind, the tides and the direction of the swell also have to be just right.

“Large enough” means 20 feet (6 meters) by Hawai‘i measurements. That’s equivalent to about 40 feet (12 meters) when measured by methods used in the rest of the U.S. Before this year, conditions have only aligned for it to be held nine times since the initial competition in 1984.

Organizer Clyde Aikau said at a news conference Friday that he was expecting waves to reach 25-30 feet (7.6-9 meters) by Hawai‘i measurements or 50-60 feet (15-18 meters) on the national scale.

“Yes, The Eddie will go on Sunday,” he said.

Other places around the world have big wave surfing events: Mavericks in California, Nazare in Portugal and Peahi on Hawai‘i’s Maui Island. But author Stuart Coleman says The Eddie is distinguished by how it honors Eddie Aikau, a legendary Native Hawaiian waterman, for his selflessness, courage and sacrifice.

“What makes this contest the most unique is that it’s in memory of a particular individual who really has transcended his time and place when he lived,” said Coleman, who wrote “Eddie Would Go,” a biography of Aikau.

Edward Ryon Makuahanai Aikau rose to prominence as the first lifeguard hired by Honolulu to work on O‘ahu’s North Shore and was revered for saving over 500 people during his career. He’s also famous for surfing towering waves that no one else would dare ride.

Aikau died in 1978 at the age of 31 during an expedition to sail a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe from Honolulu to Tahiti. Just hours out of port, the giant double-hulled canoe known as the Hokulea took on water and overturned in stormy weather. Aikau volunteered to paddle several miles to nearby Lanai Island on his surfboard to get help for the rest of the crew but was never seen again.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued the remaining crew a few hours later after being alerted by a commercial plane that spotted the canoe.

Coleman said The Eddie is about the best of big wave surfing and the best of Hawaiian culture.

“They always say at the opening ceremony, where they gather to launch the holding period, ‘This is not just a contest. We’re not surfing against each other. We’re surfing in the spirit of Eddie,”′ Coleman said.

This year organizers have invited 40 competitors and 18 alternates from around the world, including Kelly Slater, who has won a record 11 world surfing titles. John John Florence, who hails from the North Shore and who has won two back-to-back world titles, has also been asked to join.

Keala Kennelly of Kaua‘i, a women’s big wave surf champion, is among the female invitees.

Mindy Pennybacker, a surf columnist for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and author of the upcoming book “Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i: Wahine Reclaiming the Waves” said there’s long been an assumption that Waimea was too dangerous for women and they couldn’t surf there.

She said they’ve had to fight to be included and have meanwhile shown that they could handle big waves in spots around the world.

“To see women — not only women surfing Waimea but women and men sharing the same event together, with mutual respect and equality — I’m just really thrilled at the thought,” Pennybacker said.

The contest is expected to attract tens of thousands of spectators to the two-lane highway winding through the North Shore and the small towns that dot the coastal community.

Kathleen Pahinui, the chairperson of the North Shore Neighborhood Board, said it will be good for businesses, restaurants and shops. She urged visitors to carpool and take the bus because the roads will be congested.

“I wish all the participants the best of luck,” she said.

4 Comments
  1. Heidi January 22, 2023 12:20 am Reply

    The winner takes $150,000 dollars in cash prize money. I picked either Makua Rothman, Nathan Fletcher, or Joshua Moniz. All professional WSL surfers from Oahu and Maui. Nathan looks like the favorite because he was the director of the Vans Pipeline Masters 2022 held a month ago at Pipeline. Now it’s Waimea Bay they’ll be at.


  2. Heidi January 22, 2023 12:33 am Reply

    I’ll be there tomorrow watching it. If not, I’ll be here watching it on video. They have it on WSL surf channel. And it’s titled, the Eddie…Starts at 8:00 am in the morning and ends at 3:00 pm in the afternoon. One day event.


  3. Heidi January 23, 2023 1:01 am Reply

    Wow. I watched the Eddie the whole day. And is now watching on rerun. On the eddie aikau dot come website. I like this year’s surf contest because I knew lots of people were going to be there. I saw Nathan Fletcher and local boy favorite Joshua Moniz. I think watching these professional makes a person wonder how many of the young kids will grow up professional surfers? One of the biggest events on Oahu is the Eddie. I saw it live. Wow… I’m watching the Banzai Pipeline next week. It’s going to be great. The big wave surfers are great. Nathan, Mark Healy, and all the others. True soul surfers…


  4. Heidi January 24, 2023 1:47 pm Reply

    The scores for this event was close. Everyone of the top 10, highest score being a 90 points, The highest score was a life guard from Waimea Bay, Luke Shepardson, 89.1 so he won the contest. Ross Clark-Jones had 70 points and came in 10th place out of 40 candidates. All surfers picked up cash prize. Luke picked up a $10,000 dollars check. Wow. I’m happy to see surfers picking up some thing for their efforts.


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