Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau – The Bay Calls the Day

Of all the surf competitions that take place on the North Shore of Oahu, the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau is possibly the most prestigious. Taking place between set dates each year, invitations are sent to 28 big-wave riders, participating in 2 rounds of competition where swells must reach a minimum of 20 foot face heights in order for the contest to take place. These strict requirements, known as “the bay calls the day,” make it somewhat difficult for the event to happen yearly, as ocean conditions are difficult to predict and participants must be ready at all times. Only eight times since 1985 has the Eddie Aikau Memorial seen surfers take to the waves to prove a winner, the most recent coming in 2009 with waves reaching 30 to 50 feet and Greg Long of California being crowned the champion.
An important element that has not been lost of contest organizers, participants, and all involved is the legacy and importance of Eddie Aikau. Eddie was born in Kahului, Maui and learned to surf on the shorebreak at Kahului Harbor. Following a move to Oahu in 1959, Eddie, now 16, started working at the Dole Pineapple Cannery, the paycheck allowing him to buy his first surfboard. He was named by the City and County of Honolulu as the first lifeguard on the North Shore, garnering the task of covering all of the beaches between Sunset and Haleiwa. Not a single life was lost during his service of Waimea Bay, often braving waves in excess of 30 feet and becoming famous for surfing the huge waves that others dared not to attempt. In 1978, the Polynesian Voyaging Society sought volunteers for a 30-day, 2,500 mile journey that would follow the ancient route of Polynesian migration between Hawaii and the Tahitian Islands. At 31, Eddie joined the voyage as a crew member and set sail on a double-hulled canoe. Shortly into the journey, the canoe developed a leak and capsized about twelve miles south of Molokai. In an attempt to get help, Eddie paddled towards the island of Lanai on his surfboard. The U.S. Coast Guard was able to rescue the entire crew, though Eddie Aikau was never seen again. The ensuing search for him was the largest air-sea search in Hawaii history.
Eddie has remained an icon in Hawaii, and soon after world-wide, prompting bumper stickers, t-shirts, hats, and a wide variety of novelty items with the phrase “Eddie Would Go.” The phrase, inspired by Eddie’s fearless mind-set when it came to pulling people out of waves that no one else would dare to, or even could, originated during the first Eddie contest. Conditions were extremely dangerous and the waves were huge; contest organizers were having difficulty deciding whether to put it on or post-pone, when Mark Foo, a famed surfer in his own right, looked at the conditions and remarked “Eddie would go.” The phrase stuck and the Eddie went on. This years Eddie Aikau is scheduled to take place at Waimea Bay between December 1, 2010 and February 28, 2011. When conditions are right, swells are huge, and the bay is ready, surfers will once again honor Eddie and his impact on the sport.

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