On December 1st, 2016, the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational officially kicked off the 2016/17 holding period with a culturally rich opening ceremony to honor Hawaiian waterman, Waimea Bay lifeguard and Big Wave pioneer Eddie Aikau. The Aikau family and a significant number of the world’s greatest big wave surfers gathered to show their respect for Eddie in the event’s 32nd anniversary.
The official Invitee and Alternate introductions were made by legendary watermen Mark Cunningham and featured powerful speeches by Clyde Aikau and World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour Commissioner Peter Mel.
The Hawaiian blessing and prayers silenced the crowd while honoring and connecting all present to past and living Hawaiian culture. It set the tone for the highly revered annual event that commenced its 32nd season as athletes stood side-by-side with their boards in a colorful circle of camaraderie.
Following the traditional surfers’ circle and blessings on land, the invited athletes paddled out at Waimea and gave their leis to the sea as an offering – a “Ho’okupu” in the spirit of Eddie Aikau. Surfers again joined in the water as onlookers watched from the beach and the sun set behind Ka‘ena Point.
A WSL specialty event, the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, is a one-day, big wave competition at Oahu’s Waimea Bay that runs only when wave heights reach 40 feet and over. What started 32 years ago to pay tribute to Aikau, has grown to become an almost mythic event. It is an event so rare that it has only run nine times since its conception in 1984.
“I am super honored to be back here this season,” said John John Florence, current WSL World Champion. “2016 was the biggest year of my life and it started at The Eddie. Thank you to the Aikaus and Quiksilver and the WSL for welcoming us back this year.”
The Eddie will be contested by 28 invitees, including last year’s event winner and newly crowned WSL Champion, Florence, as well as surfing legends Ross Clarke-Jones, Tom Carroll and Michael Ho. The invitees also include decorated big wave chargers Greg Long, Billy Kemper and Shane Dorian.
“This event is very much about family and community,” said 2009 Eddie winner and 2015/16 Big Wave Tour Champion, Greg Long. “It’s a real blessing to be welcomed into the Aikau Ohana. It’s always a special time of year for us.”
“I have grown up with the story of Eddie and respecting those who surf in this event,” CT competitor and Eddie invitee Jeremy Flores. “Being invited is one of the highlights of my career. A true honor.”
The contest format has two rounds, each with a maximum wave count of eight waves. Each surfer’s best four waves count toward the final score, with a maximum individual wave score of 100 points based on size, risk and how well the wave was surfed.
Statemens from the Aikau family (including the announcement of the contest’s first female alternate), Quiksilver, and the WSL follow:
“We are proud to see the tradition of The Eddie continue without interruption—a testament to our respect for Eddie Aikau, the Aikau family, the Hawaiian people, and the community at large. We are very grateful for the efforts and support of the Aikau family and the World Surf League under the leadership of Paul Speaker who have all worked very hard with our team over the past few weeks to come up with a solution”, said Pierre Agnes, Quiksilver’s CEO. Agnes added “Consistent with Quiksilver and the Aikau family’s wishes, we are pleased to confirm that the same stringent condition requirements we instituted when we inaugurated The Eddie 31 years ago will continue this year. We have every confidence that WSL’s greater involvement in the event this year will only improve The Eddie’s reputation as one of the world’s premier surfing contests.”
“The WSL has tremendous respect for the legacy of Eddie Aikau and the prestige of this special event in his honor,” Paul Speaker, WSL CEO said. “The League regards it as a privilege to support and participate in the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational event and we look forward to the upcoming winter season.”
Eddie Aikau surviving brothers and sister, Solomon, Clyde and Myra, expressed their relief at the Aikau Family, with the cooperation of Quiksilver, the World Surf League, and the City and County of Honolulu, were able to overcome the logistical and other obstacles that stood in the way of the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational being held this year in a manner that would maintain the integrity and Hawaiian spirit of the competition.
The Aikau Family’s strong commitment to keep Eddie’s legacy, aloha spirit, Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian traditions alive is at the heart of the surf contest named in his honor and the work of the Eddie Aikau Foundation. In that spirit, with women’s surfing reaching new heights, the Aikaus are excited to announce their decision to include a woman athlete on this year’s alternative list – the first in the history of The Eddie.
More about the 2016-2017 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational can be found on quiksilver.com.
The invitation list this year is as follows: (listed first name alphabetical order)
John John Florence
The alternate invitation list is used to replace injured or unavailable surfers from the invitation list. Alternate invitations will be offered in the order set out below:
Event past winners:
1985/1986 : Denton Miyamura (Haw)
1986/1987 : Clyde Aikau (Haw)
1989/1990 : Keone Downing (Haw)
1998/1999 : Noah Johnson (Haw)
2000/2001 : Ross Clarke-Jones (Aus)
2004/2005 : Bruce Irons (Haw)
2001/2002 : Kelly Slater (USA)
2009/2010 : Greg Long (USA)
2015/2016 : John John Florence (Haw)