Yesterday afternoon’s opening ceremony took place on the hallowed grounds of Waimea Bay and signaled the commencement of the 23rd anniversary of the event.
Held each year in honor of legendary Hawaiian waterman, Eddie Aikau, The Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational, In Memory of Eddie Aikau gathers the most skillful and dynamic big-wave surfers from around the world.
Hawaiian Kahu (priest) Billy Mitchell was on hand yesterday to welcome all 28 invitees, a short list of alternates, members of the Aikau ohana (family) and close to 1,000 spectators and media from around the world who were on hand for the formal ceremony.
For those who only know Aikau by name and by this event, Mitchell gave great insight into the man, his legacy, and his spirit that is infused into The Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational and invited surfers to ride in Aikau’s honor.
“Surfing is fragile. Hawaii is fragile. The Hawaiian culture is fragile, and Eddie knew that,” Kahu Mitchell told the crowd.
“He knew the privilege of taking and the importance of giving back. He understood what it means to keep things pono – balanced.
“We gather here to give thanks for the values, the thoughts, the mana (spirit) that came through this man. May we live with the honor we saw him dance with through life. Surf in his honor.”
Aikau was the most respected lifeguard in the history of lifeguarding on Oahu’s famous North Shore, and a pioneer of big-wave riding in Hawaii. His life was tragically lost in 1978, during a voyage of the Hokule’a (Star of Gladness) sailing canoe. Capsized during the night in heavy sees in the Molokai Channel, Aikau paddled into the darkness, headed for land to seek help for his stranded crewmembers. He was never seen again.
“Aikau gave back in the ultimate way,” said Kahu Mitchell.
“Hokule’a – Star of Gladness. Our brother did not go sadly.”
Past winners of this event include Denton Miyamura, Clyde Aikau (Eddie’s younger brother), Keone Downing, Noah Johnson, Ross Clarke-Jones, Kelly Slater and most recently Bruce Irons, in 2004.
The Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau will be broadcast live on the internet when and if it runs. The event website will also feature the opening ceremony, photos, videos and text from the event’s storied history, links to purchase limited edition merchandise and profiles of each competitor.
– Aloha –