THE QUIKSILVER IN MEMORY OF EDDIE AIKAU
BIG WAVE INVITATIONAL

Waimea Bay, O`ahu Hawai`i
Event History

Online Editors note: This material, as written by a gentleman friend of Eddie Aikau, was prepared in 1996, in anticipation of that year's event which was not held - portions of it may not accuately reflect the format of the '99 event, as surfed.

Contest director, George Downing had surfed big waves with his good friend Eddie Aikau many times. When he was asked by Quiksilver to create an event in Eddie Aikau's honor, he knew it would need two elements; the spirit of Hawai`i and big surf. The waves would have to be 20' or bigger and it would have to be at Waimea Bay, where Eddie had been a lifeguard and where he loved to surf. The Hawaiian spirit was already there. Eddie was loved and looked up to; a hero, drawing on his skills as a Hawaiian waterman to save lives and charge the biggest and most dangerous waves on the North Shore. Any big wave riders invited to participate in the event knew about him, Eddie had either helped them develop their own surfing or inspired them with his surfing. Everyone respected Eddie and gathering in his memory would be an honor.

The idea of a big wave event was foreign to the direction of professional surfing at that time. Pro surfing promoters had swayed away from waves of consequence. Contest directors were trying to build up a viable world tour and were more concerned about weather, crowds and sponsorship than about surf quality or size. The professional circuit had adopted a minimum wave size that wavered somewhere between six and eighteen inches. Events were held at inland wave- pools" in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania, where competitors rode artificial waves. At one spectacle in Florida, surfers had to compete on boat wakes because there wasn't any swell. In Japan, a contest had been held where the surfers could barely get to their feet before their fins touched sand and the tiny waves lapped on shore. World Champions were being chosen that never had to encounter waves that were even medium size by Hawaiian standards.

Downing would not waver from his vision, it would be an event Eddie and the Hawaiians would be proud of or it wouldn't be done at all. To prove his point, he took a video tape of big wave riding to an industry trade show in Southern California and left it playing in the Quiksilver display area. When people were drawn to the footage like moths to a flame, Quiksilver realized that Downing was right and pledged their support to the event.

The twenty foot wave size requirement for the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau is big even by Hawaiian standards. Holding out for truly big waves has meant that the contest has only been run twice during it' s inception. The first event was held Sunday, February 21, 1986. The wind direction was not ideal but the size was there. That morning. concerned about the conditions, Downing sent his son, Keone out into the twenty foot plus surf to make sure it was ridable. Three heats went off, in a format that allowed the contestants minimal crowds, plenty of time to catch waves, and a chance to come from behind to improve their standing.

Later that day, after hours in a line-up filled with the best big wave riders in the world, Eddies brother, Clyde Aikau emerged the winner. His very first wave was a twenty footer, and from that point on Clyde never looked back. Mark Foo challenged by riding the biggest wave of the event, a twenty-five footer. But Clyde had been too consistent, it had been his day and everyone was stoked he was the first to win in his brother's name.

The next event went off on Sunday, January 21, 1990 at Waimea Bay in perfect 20 - 25 foot surf with some 30 foot sets. After a wait of nearly three years, the combination of a typhoon in the Philippines and a gigantic storm off Japan joined to produce sustained winds of over fifty knots to generate what veteran Waimea surfers called one of the most consistent and ridable big days in the history of surf at The Bay.

An international field of 33 invited surfers contested the flawless waves in two rounds for a total of 6 hours. Each round had three heats of 11 surfers who were allowed to catch four waves in one hour. Each surfer, after resting for one to two hours was able to go out again in round 2 to catch an additional four waves. Surfers were judged on their four highest scoring rides from the two rounds. This unique format allowed each surfer a chance to come from behind, as many did.

The level of surfing was astounding as surfer after surfer dropped into gigantic waves that were reaching well over four stories high on the larger sets. Traffic was stopped and every available vantage point was utilized, the huge crowd leaping to their feet numerous times to applaud the stunning performances. Conditions and wave size held consistent throughout the last heat of the second round, giving all contestants a chance to win. This eased the pressure of judging and offered the surfers the opportunity to be rewarded for increasing their performance level.

Keone Downing consistently selected big waves to win the event and $55,000. which is the richest first prize ever given in the history of the sport. A fellow surfer commented, "Keone was on a mission with no distractions other than methodically selecting big waves, positioning deep, using a high line of vertical descent with maximum speed across the face of the wave". He charged the The Bay with elegance and respect.

Brock Little, one of the youngest Waimea Bay surfers came from 12th place in the Ist round to capture second place. He took off on a huge set wave and courageously pulled into the tube and reappeared before an avalanche of white water ended his ride. The crowd on the beach roared their approval during a standing ovation.

Richard Schmidt, a veteran big wave rider from Santa Cruz took third, capping a strong performance in the 1st round (9th place) by going for an "EDDIE WOULD GO' Waimea point wave - one of the biggest waves of the day. According to Keone Downing, who was paddling back out after riding a wave just minutes before, "When paddling back out after my ride I saw Richard start down this vertical take-off. The face of the wave had hollowed out under him. The updraft of wind forced up the wave face lifted his board. He and his board then free-fell 5 - 10 feet down the face of the wave before the skeg settled into the wave face. Richard's expression when this happened seemed to have been one of relief, having everything back under control, he then completed the ride." On the beach, the crowd went crazy, the judges gave Schmidt a perfect score of 20 points each.

It was a day of great camaraderie among the surfers and a day of many "personal bests" as surfers had a chance to ride some of the best and biggest waves of their careers. Waimea regulars Michael Ho, Clyde Aikau, and Darrick Doerner, 4th, 5th, and 6th respectively, had an outstanding day while relative new comers like Ross Clarke-Jones of Australia, showed the class of new blood charin into 7th place in his second year at The Bay.

The contest was, to quote big wave pioneer Flippy Hoffman, "Bitchen, great waves, great performances and good fun."

There was a sigh of relief from George Downing when the event ended. He looked up as though he was about to say something to someone - or maybe to catch something said to him - then it started to rain. He finally said, "Great day. few boards broken, minor injuries, and friends pitched in to make this happen. Sharing this with the surfers made me feel young again; and oh yes, great overhead waves. The rain stopped.

Quiksilver and all the invitees were proud to have participated in this event - it was a day that Eddie would have loved.

With clear skies, ideal conditions, and some of the biggest waves to hit Waimea Bay in over five years, the first round of The Quiksilver In Memory Of Eddie Aikau was held Friday, December 29, 1995. Contest Director George Downing put participants on stand-by Wednesday December 27th as he watched an enormous storm system develop in the Northwest Pacific. Thursday, all invitees and alternates were advised to gather at Waimea Bay on Friday morning. Downing consulted with his team of meteorologists and monitored buoy reports throughout Thursday night, correlating the wind direction, speed and fetch data to his extensive big surf experience. Amid Civil Defense warnings of evacuation and waves washing across Kamehameha Highway on the North Shore, Downing arrived at Waimea before dawn to check conditions. There were already people gathering in anticipation of the event.

First light showed perfect conditions at Waimea Bay. Huge dark walls stacked the horizon and peeled across The Bay, as a delicate offshore wind combed back the crests. The surf was beautiful - the rare combination of size and clean surface conditions that surfers dream of. Downing watched as a few huge sets meeting the required 20' minimum came through. People on the beach stood awe struck watching, collectively gasping as the surfers were dwarfed by the mountainous waves. As the dark walls stood and heaved against the sky, surfers paddled into position - some trying to avoid the waves - others clawing their way into the steep drops and accelerating down the vertical faces. As though nature supported the event, first one radiant rainbow, then two manifest off Waimea point, their glow embracing The Bay.

With twin rainbows above, warm sunny skies, a clean, huge swell and excellent surface conditions, word went out that surfers were to report at 9:30 AM as scaffolds, judges, and support personnel went into position for an 11:00 AM start. Downing settled on four 50 minute heats for the first round, with eight surfers in three of the heats and nine in the fourth. Downing kept the heats as long as possible with the minimum number of surfers in the water at the same time to afford each participant the best opportunity to ride the biggest waves.

Each of the first four heats enjoyed blue skies occasionally traversed by subtly tinted billowing clouds. Clean surface conditions enhanced the big set waves. The entire Waimea Bay Park was jammed with spectators that overflowed onto Waimea Point. Along all the surrounding roads every vantage point was pressed into service. Brightly colored big wave boards contrasted against the lush green lawn and grainy sand. Surfers came in congratulating each other and sharing stories of their rides. Photographers tended their cameras and lenses - pointed toward the line-up like artillery. People stopped and stared at Eddie's memorial on their way to the shade beneath the swaying palms and Ironwood pines.

Most sets detonated the violent shorebreak - exploding white water into the air and causing the lifeguard to issue a stern warning for the spectators to stay well away from the rush of incoming white water that would bound up the steep beach, foaming and frothing - before running back to sea. Water patrol jet skis teased the powerful waves, quickly and nimbly skirting their energy. Hawaiian music mixed with the warm trade winds as famous surf event announcer, the silver haired Lord "Tally Ho" Blears called out the spectacular rides - intermixing North Shore surf stories and drawing on world history to keep the pulse racing and the smiles flowing throughout the heats.

Scoring the surfer's performances went as follows. Every wave ridden by a surfer was judged by seven judges. Each judge scored each ride surfer's ride with a value of 1 to 20 points. The value of each ride was determined by each judge (this is a subjective call) based on the size of the wave, positioning of take-off, how critical the take-off is, and maneuvers used to maintain position and control of the body and board. Because this event is to be held in "Big Waves", the highest value score will be given to the surfer who rides "The Biggest Wave", The Greatest Distance", "In the Most Critical Section". All maneuvers that allow a surfer to achieve his goal will be part to the total value given by each judge. At the end of each heat, All judges score sheets are checked for clarity by the head recorder before computing is started. When this is complete, each surfer's Individual Wave score of all judges is totaled. This is done by first eliminating one judges high (H) and one judges low (L) score from each judge's score sheet. Eliminating a high and low score is done to limit any prejudice that may exist in the panel of judges, as done in Olympic Diving. The final scores for the first round totaled to attain the following results:

SURFER - FIRST ROUND SCORE
1. Brock Little, Haw..........263
2. Ross Clarke-Jones, Aus.....262
3. Sunny Garcia. Haw..........261
4. Clyde Aikau, Haw...........259
5. Ross Williams, Haw.........252
6. Dane Kealoha, Has..........252
7. Michael Ho, Haw............245
8. Pancho Sullivan, Haw.......238
9. Shane Dorian, Haw..........233
10. Keone Downing, Haw.........233
11. Johnny Boy Gomes, Haw.....232
12. Tony Moniz, Haw...........231
13. Derek Ho, Haw.............225
14. Eric Haas, Haw............214
15. Brian Keaulana, Haw. .....212
16. Cheyne Horan, Aus.........210
17. Richard Schmidt, Calif....206
18. Kelly Slater, Fla..........206
19. Vatea David, Tahiti ......200
20. Dennis Pang, Haw..........194
21. Arnold Dowling, Haw. .....193
22. Titus Kinimaka, Haw.......190
23. Garrett McNamara, Haw.....181
24. Braden Dias, Haw..........170
25. Noah Johnson, Haw.........156
26. Keone Watson, Haw. .......148
27. Marvin Foster, Haw........141
28. Ken Bradshaw, Haw.........130
29. Mike Parsons, Calif.......122
30. Myles Padaca, Haw.........118
3 I . Todd Chesser, Haw. .....104
32. Shawn Briley, Haw.........103
33.James Jones, Haw...........92
34. Mark Foo, Haw............In Honor*

*Mark Foo was killed surfing big waves at Maverick's (California) - December 2, 1994. A great surfer, he participated in every Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau event since 1986. In honor, his spot as an invitee is left unfilled.

Shortly after 2:,0 with all the surfers having completed the first round, Downing called a meeting. The unique format of the event allows surfers to come from behind and win with a strong performance in the second heat, but Downing had noticed that the huge swell was tapering in size. There were not enough sets of the required 20' waves to continue with the second round of the competition. After consulting with the entire Judges staff and many of the invited surfers, Downing he made the decision fairest to all and conforming to the Contest Rules wave size requirements; no second round heats would be called and the event would be continued when the next swell would allow the contest to resume. The scores from the first round of the competition would stand to be tabulated with the second round to be held the next time the swell attained the required size. The afternoon proved Downing's call correct - the waves remained beautiful but the consistency of the huge sets dropped. The surfers and crowd remained at The Bay - enjoying the spirit of the event and celebrating the beautiful waves ridden in honor of Eddie Aikau. As the sunset lit the clouds the people stayed on - watching the waves - and basking in a glow that remained with them long after dark.

Observations - Richard Schmidt
It was sunny and clean. Everybody was elated to surf in the event. The surf was beautiful that morning - there were spectacular sets coming in. When everybody saw the 20' plus set come in - the energy on the beach picked up.

I sat on the point to watch the first two heats. I was impressed by Brock Little in the first heat - his positioning was spot on - his confidence and experience really came out.

The waves were so clean, that guys were really having fun. Ross Williams made some impressive rides - he's really applied himself.

Ross Clark-Jones and Brock both got barrels. When the waves got more inconsistent in the late afternoon, it showed how special those big waves are. In the second heat there were some nice waves - some big bombers. Michael Ho had a deal on it - there was a little more wind so the guys had to be a little more selective. Poto (Vetea David) got some good waves. Marvin Foster went left in the third heat.

I was in the fourth (last) heat. I paddled out with Clyde Aikau and Dennis Pang. I was pretty relaxed. Since there are no eliminations, there's a whole different vibe to this contest. If you see a good ride - it just makes you try harder - you get inspired by the surfing. I was paddling back out and saw Shane Dorian get a big, vertical drop - just straight down and he pulled it off. Everyone was so stoked - it was like there was a stoked aura the whole day - lots of smiles in the line-up. Later at the meeting there was so much momentum that the initial reaction to waiting for the next swell was disappointment - but the dropping swell proved George Downing made a great call.

Contest Format -|- News/Results of '99 Event

George with Rell Sunn at the Roxy Quiksilver press conference in '96
held to commemorate The World's Greatest Women Surfers...
Will a Women's Big Wave Memorial be next? Only time will tell...
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Hele On Back Waimea

Last Modified: 19990108.0909 HST Friday
Copyright 1996-99 Quiksilver Memory of Eddie Aikau
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