HONOLULU – (AP) – One of the world’s most prestigious and historic surfing contests, dubbed the “Super Bowl of Surfing,” rolled into Hawaii for the first time in seven years Sunday with towering wave faces and a giant swell that it was expected to grow throughout the day.
And this year female surfers competed alongside men for the first time in the 39-year history of The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational.
The event, known as The Eddie, is a one-day competition held at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu only when the surf is big enough during the big wave surfing season of winter from mid-December to mid-March. The wind, tides and swell direction must also be correct.
“Large enough” means 20 feet (6 meters) by Hawaiian measurements. This equates to about 40 feet (12 meters) when measured by the methods used in the rest of the US. Prior to this year, the conditions have only aligned for it to be held nine times since the initial competition in 1984.
Organizer Clyde Aikau said at a press conference on Friday that he expected waves to reach 25 to 30 feet (7.6 to nine meters) by Hawaiian standards or 50 to 60 feet (15 to 18 meters) by scale national, and the conditions were being met. expectations
The sets were already big on Sunday, with swells forecast to grow as the day wore on, and an estimated 60,000 people packed the beaches and surrounding areas to watch the spectacle. A huge wave swept onto the beach and hit a family, sweeping a baby under a house, but the child was not injured. Hawaii News Now reported.
“We’ve been looking at 30-foot to 40-foot wave faces for the most part, (and) the biggest waves of the day will exceed 45 feet. Locally, they’ll call those waves. 25 feet, and we’ve seen a couple of sets like that,” Kevin Wallis, director of forecasting at Surfline.comhe said by phone Sunday morning.
“It’s amazing, it’s really fun to watch and it’s such a rare and prestigious event, and there’s a lot of energy and a lot of buzz, for sure,” he said.
Other places around the world have big wave surfing events: Mavericks in California, Nazare in Portugal and Peahi on the Hawaiian island of Maui. But author Stuart Coleman says The Eddie stands out because it honors Eddie Aikau, a legendary Native Hawaiian waterman, for his altruism, courage and sacrifice.
“What makes this contest most unique is that it’s in memory of a particular person who really transcended his time and place when he lived,” said Coleman, who wrote “Eddie Would Go,” a biography of Aikau.
Edward Ryon Makuahanai Aikau became the first lifeguard hired by Honolulu to work on Oahu’s North Shore and was revered for saving more than 500 people during his career. He is also famous for surfing towering waves that no one else would dare to ride.
Aikau died in 1978 at the age of 31 during an expedition to sail a traditional Polynesian voyage canoe from Honolulu to Tahiti. A few hours out of port, the giant double-hulled canoe known as the Hokulea took on water and capsized 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 US Coast Guard rescued the remaining crew a few hours later after being alerted by a commercial aircraft 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 start the celebration period, ‘This is not just a competition. We are not sailing against each other. We’re sailing in Eddie’s spirit,” 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 Coast and has won two consecutive world titles, has also been asked to join.
Keala Kennelly of Kauai, women’s big wave surfing champion, is among the female guests.
Mindy Pennybacker, a surfing columnist for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and author of the upcoming book, “Surfing Sisterhood Hawaii: Wahine Reclaiming the Waves,” said Waimea has long been assumed to be too dangerous for women and that they could not sail. there.
She said women had to fight to be included, and in the meantime, they’ve proven they can handle big waves in places around the world.
“To see women, not just women surfing at Waimea, but women and men sharing the same event together, with mutual respect and equality, I’m really excited about that idea,” Pennybacker said.
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