On March 17, 1978, Waimea Bay’s head lifeguard and beloved big wave Hawaiian surfing son Eddie Aikau was lost at sea. Aikau was part of the crew aboard the traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule’a, en-route to Tahiti when Hokule’a capsized during a wild storm just outside of the Hawaiian Islands. Aikau set out on his surfboard to paddle for help for his stranded crew but was never seen again. The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave invitational is celebrated at Waimea Beach each year in his honor. Today, the world’s best big wave riders were joined by Aikau’s family and members of Aikau’s voyaging crew, who sailed in to join the surfers and hundreds of spectators who gathered to celebrate in Aikau’s honor.
Nainoa Thompson, fellow crewman on Hokule’a and the last person to speak to Aikau, addressed the surfers who gathered today. His soft voice, still touched by the events that took place 35 years ago, spoke with deep affection, humility, and sincere gratitude for Aikau and his actions on that fateful day that set an example for all who follow his story through time – surfers or otherwise.
Today, Hokule’a is six months from embarking upon a multi-year international voyage that will not only share Hawaii’s culture with the world, but also the story of it’s hero: Eddie Aikau.
“Every voyage we make is in the wake of Eddie Aikau’s greatness,” said Nainoa Thompson, master navigator of the Hokule’a voyaging canoe.
And for every big wave surfer who has charged huge surf since Aikau, the same could be said of each giant ride taken… ridden in the wake of Eddie Aikau’s greatness.
It was a powerful, full circle moment for this year’s Invitees and Alternates, who then paddled out to form a surfer’s circle alongside Hokule’a, as the sun set over the western Oahu’ point of Ka’ena.
The holding period for the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau is underway, running from December 1, 2013, through February 28, 2014. The event will only be held if and when waves at Waimea Bay, on Oahu’s North Shore, reach the minimum of 20 feet required for this original big wave surfing event… the size that Aikau loved.
The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau has only been held a total of eight (8) times, most recently on December 8, 2009. California’s Greg Long took the honor that year.