Eddie Went

The 2004 Quiksilver In Memory Of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational

It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, and Bruce Irons has just shanked a ball into the rough. Yet in a stroke of good fortune, his ball lands on the cart path and rolls another twenty yards.

Life is good for the younger of the Irons brothers-even if it’s just Tiger Woods 2005 on PS2.

Upstairs is a ten-foot, single-fin surfboard made from the Hawai’ian hardwood, koa, that Bruce won the day before at the 2004 Quiksilver In Memory Of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. “Pick it up. The thing weighs a ton,” says Bruce in between virtual strokes.

The rainy day conversation drifts back to video golf until Dean Morrison (a Red Bull houseguest) nonchalantly asks, “Hey Bruce, how much did ya win yesterday?”

“Fifty-five,” replied the 25-year-old regular-foot without taking his eyes off a critical putt.

That’s 55 Gs to you and me-55,000 dollars, a king’s ransom, a major down payment on a home, tons of poke and beer. Alas, it’s all in a day’s work for Bruce Irons.

Before you go snickering about that much money for a day of surfing, think about this: Bruce Irons put his life on the line for that money. He earned it fair and square. He rode the biggest wave of his life. He defeated the most decorated paddle-in big-wave riders the entire world could muster up, including past champions Kelly Slater, Ross Clarke-Jones, and Clyde Aikau (Eddie Aikau’s brother).

The “Eddie” (as it has become known) is run only when Waimea Bay gets over twenty foot-Hawai’ian style-and has only been run seven times. The contest is a tribute to Hawai’ian lifeguard and surfer Eddie Aikau who, aside from being one of the most complete watermen to ever grace the shores of Hawai’i, saved over a thousand lives while manning the lifeguard tower at Waimea and other North Shore beaches, where tourists are routinely swept away and drown. Eddie was a hero, and this is how the surfing community celebrates his life. Eddie was lost at sea in 1978 after the traditional Polynesian sailing canoe, the Hokule’a, capsized in rough seas while attempting a re-creation of the Polynesian voyage between Hawai’i and Tahiti. Eddie, who was selected as a crewman, bravely attempted to paddle to shore in a rescue effort but was never seen again. His spirit, however, lives on. “I think Eddie’s up there smiling-twenty to 30 years later. He was a really humble guy, and I know he’s up there going, ‘Right on, guys!'” said Eddie’s younger brother Cyde.

Bruce’s winning wave was one for the ages-the biggest wave of the biggest set of the day, an easy 25-footer. Bruce successfully navigated the drop, watched as the wave barfed out a cannon-load of water as it hit the infamous boil at Waimea, and kept riding.

And riding.

After bouncing and weaving (on a 9’6″!) through the flat section of the wave, Bruce did what had nearly paralyzed Michael Ho a couple years ago-he pulled in on the heaving shorebreak.

It was an act of insanity. It looked like Pipe yet was thicker, and the wave was awash in sand and foam. The crowd on the beach went nuts as soon as everyone realized what he was going to do, and as the curtain threw over him, Bruce looked straight toward the beach, directly into the eyes of the thousand or so spectators standing less than 50 feet away. For his efforts, Irons was awarded 100 points-a perfect ride (a judging scale from 1 to 100 is used in the Eddie).

Because of the perfect-all-day conditions, “The Eddie” was one of the most watched surf contests ever (this Webcast thing is really catching on), and even Dennis Hopper made a cameo appearance. Hopper, who narrated the Ross Clarke-Jones documentary The Sixth Element, was whisked in on a private jet that Quiksilver head honcho Bob McKnight chartered the morning of the contest. While not a surfer himself, Hopper was stoked. “This is awesome. It’s really unbelievable,” said the star of Easy Rider.

Along with Bruce, other standouts aand highlights included Michael Ho, who took off on a monster early on; Jamie Sterling air-dropping backside; Peter Mel; Andy Irons; Mark Healey, who went left à– la Marvin Foster; and Flea, who took the honors for best wipeout, a free-falling cartwheel on a 25-foot wave-scary stuff, but the NorCal charger shook it off and went back for more.

Thanks to all who were a part of the 2004 Quiksilver In Memory Of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational-from every standpoint, it was an event that will not be forgotten.-Justin Cotà‡

Final Standings For 2004 Quiksilver In Memory Of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational

1.Bruce Irons (HAW) $55,000

2.Ross Clarke-Jones (AUS) $12,000

3. Shane Dorian (HAW) $7,000

4. Andy Irons (HAW) $5,000

5. Peter Mel (USA) $4,000

6. Kelly Slater (USA) $3,000