Conditions stop ‘The Eddie,’ but not the people


Waimea Bay was so crowded on Wednesday that people began to ignore the caution tape.

By Mitchell Fasolo, Staff Writer

Late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning thousands of people spilled into Waimea Bay and its surrounding hillsides to watch the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave surf competition.


On Wednesday morning mother nature called off the competition, as the anticipated 40- to 50- foot waves headed more toward California. Although formally cancelled, thousands of supporters were still determined to have a great time, despite the shortage of the 40-foot surf required for an “Eddie.”


Many of the competition’s spectators were college students from all over the state. There was minimal remorse felt for skipping class to witness a historic day on Oahu’s north shore. Camping out on nearby north shore beaches was a major theme for the college community, and word that the Eddie was a no-go did not affect the students’ plans for the day.


“It’s too bad that the competition is cancelled,  but this was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I wasn’t going to risk not  being here,” said Amanda Taylor, a UH student who camped out at Log Cabins, a beach a few miles east of Waimea . “My friends and I are still going to Waimea regardless of the competition. I skipped a test for this so I might as well make it worth it.”


Soon after these hungover campers woke up near their makeshift campgrounds and put-out fires, they were headed to Waimea Bay.


From the looks of it, the competition seemed to be on. Upon approaching Waimea Bay a few hours after the cancellation, cars were bumper to bumper while constant human traffic lined the Kamehameha Highway as pedestrians walked miles from their cars to the beach entrance. Competition or not, the Waimea parking lot was jam packed and coned off.


Tents, ice chests, chairs, and barbeques bordered the hillsides for those wanting to witness the day from a bird’s-eye view. The beach was covered with colorful umbrellas and towels, the caution tape meant to guide seating was ignored as the beach became more congested. The sound of enormous spitting waves, lifeguard loudspeakers, and drunken wave-watchers filled the ears of all beachgoers throughout the day.


The day was quite fitting, seeing that most of the day’s action consisted of several lifeguard rescues. Eddie Aikau was the first lifeguard at Waimea, and he saved more than 500 lives and was an award-winning big-wave surfer. In 1978, he heroically died trying to paddle a surfboard to shore to get help after a voyaging canoe developed a leak about twelve miles south of the island of Molokai.


On Wednesday the Waimea lifeguards rescued 15 people and performed 2,300 preventive actions. These rescues were mainly focused on body surfers. Lifeguards were in constant communication with any thrill-seeker that went into the water. Tips and warnings were given over loudspeaker to anyone walking toward the massive shore-break. The jetski rescues were by far the most intense. The jetski rescuers were often forced to maneuver in between 25-foot sets to save body surfers from the powerful riptide. Everyone, especially the college students cheered and clapped as lifeguards brought the innocent victims safely to shore.


“This is my last semester in Hawaii so there was no way I was going miss it, even though there was a chance it would be cancelled.” said Manuel Ibarra, a Chaminade student who skipped three classes to see the waves. “Even though today wasn’t the perfect day for surfing, watching the lifeguards save all those people was just as thrilling as ‘The Eddie’ would’ve been.” 


The competition has a holding period until Feb. 29, if conditions pull through ‘The Eddie’ could still run later this month.