The Eddie Won't Go: Big Wave Surf Contest Called Off

Feb 10, 2016

Credit Molly Solomon

The saying goes, “The Bay Calls The Day.” But it turns out Wednesday was not that day. Shortly after 6 am, event organizers cancelled the Eddie Aikau big wave contest, after an expected swell failed to arrive at Waimea Bay. HPR’s Molly Solomon was there and has this report.

As the sun rose over Waimea Bay, it was clear to thousands of spectators who packed the beach early Wednesday morning: The Eddie would not go. “Everybody’s down here,” said event director Glen Moncata. “It’s like a party but the guest of honor didn’t decide to show up this time.”

Computer models initially showed a large swell reaching Waimea Bay in time for the contest to start at 8 am. “We figured that we would get an early morning surge that would come in,” said Moncata. “When we woke up this morning, it just wasn’t there.”

Credit Molly Solomon

For The Eddie to go, conditions must meet specific requirements: 40-foot high waves that last for at least eight hours. “To get those ideal conditions is very tough,” explained Moncata. “It’s mother nature, you know.” Those ideal conditions can be tough to predict and don’t come along very often. The last time The Eddie was held was in 2009, and it’s only gone eight times since the contest began more than 30 years ago. The invite-only event is named after Eddie Aikau, a surfing legend who was known for riding monster waves on the north shore. Aikau’s brother, Solomon, said while disappointed, he understood the waves that morning didn’t live up to Eddie’s name. “Surfing is like that. We’ve been through this enough times,” said Solomon Aikau. “We wouldn’t want to run it unless it’s in the conditions that everybody expects. Anything less wouldn’t be the right thing to do.”

Australian big-wave surfer Ross Clarke-Jones was among more than 30 invited to this year’s Eddie. “Over the last 30 years, this is probably the most disappointing for me,” said Clarke-Jones, who was scheduled to surf in the first heat of the contest. “All the models and the forecasting are so good now, and they still got it wrong. It’s unbelievable.”

It was also a letdown for the thousands of people gathered at Waimea Bay when the contest was postponed. One of them was Kendal Dowis. He spent the night in Hale‘iwa, waking up before dawn to get a prime viewing spot on the beach. “We fought through all this stuff, stayed at a friend’s house in a tent in the backyard. My wife walked a mile and a half to get here,” said Dowis. “It’s a little disappointing, but things happen for a reason. We’re going to make the best of it and figure it out.”

Contest officials are now monitoring a new storm system that could reach the islands next week, giving hope to some that an Eddie is still possible, before this year’s closes at the end of the month.