Tuesday, December 8th was the day it was called. A few days earlier contest director George Downing grabbed the mic at the opening ceremonies and said these numbers, “7, 8, 9″, meaning that the contest would be held on one of those days. The contest has a nearly 3 month waiting period, in which they wait for a 25-30 foot (Hawaiian Scale) swell. The swell needs to last for an entire day, and the conditions have to be just right. For this reason, the Eddie has only been held 8 times now in the last 25 years. For George Downing to give us all three dates to expect the Eddie to run, was pretty insane. I was behind the scenes up in the scaffolding on the 7th when they called the event off for the day, then again on the 8th when they were about to do the same. Most the guys up there were saying things like “the swell has died, the wind is bad, its too inconsistent, there’s no way it will run today, and we missed our opportunity to run it yesterday”, but George Downing just sat there studying the charts. The beach was packed with 10’s of thousands of people ready to see the Eddie go, and George Downing finally said, “if we don’t run today there’s going to be a riot….its on”. They shortly announced it to everyone and the historical Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau was a go.
I couldn’t believe how big of a deal this event was. I’ve known about the Eddie for years, but never was on the island when it ran in the past. I’ve never seen crowds like that gather for a surf contest. George Downing definitely made the right call to run the event during this swell, and on the second day of it. The conditions cleaned up super nicely, and the waves had another pulse in them which saw some “macking” sets come through. The contest format is much different from other surfing contests. There are 2 rounds, and all 28 surfers compete in both rounds. There are 4 heats in each round, in which 7 surfers paddle out and are allowed 4 waves each. Once they get a 4th wave, they come in and their heat is over. The waves are judged on a 100 point scale, 100 being the best. We saw two perfect 100’s during the competition, both in the last round by Chilean Ramon Navarro and Californian Greg Long. At the end of round 2 the top 4 waves from both rounds are added together for all surfers to determine a winner. At the end of the day it was Greg Long, who after his 100 point ride was able to sneak past Kelly Slater for the win.
This was the first time a Californian had ever won the event. Everybody knew that Slater was in the lead most of the event, and it looked like he had won for a second time. But just to keep things exciting, some of the biggest and cleanest waves of the day came through in the last heat, and Ramon Navarro and Greg Long did not pass up the opportunity to score the best 2 waves of the day. For Greg Long, it meant winning the Eddie, a dream come true. For Ramon Navarro, it gave him another award. For this year’s Eddie contest, a new award was designed by Monster Energy called the Monster Drop Award. It was a $10,000 prize for the surfer who made the most critical drop during the event. While Greg Long won $55,000 for first place, Ramon Navarro still looked pretty stoked to be able to claim the Monster Drop Award and an extra $10,000.
There is so much more to the Eddie than just watching big wave surfing up close. It was a really cool experience to be a part of the whole event, working behind the scenes. The Aikau family is very involved, and it is a time for them and all of us to remember a great Hawaiian waterman who has passed on, Eddie Aikau. Eddie was a lifeguard at Waimea Bay, and was responsible for saving thousands of lives over the years he spent his watch on the beach. He died trying to save others when their traditional sailing vessel, the Hokule’a, capsized in rough seas. Eddie is a legend on the North Shore of Oahu, and his name has become synonymous with big wave surfing. The surfer’s in the event all have a great respect for Eddie, and for each other. My good friend was surfing Waimea the day before the Eddie ran (when the waves were just as big, but more stormy and dangerous), and he said that all the guys out there look out for each other. Surfing Waimea is much different from any other break. There really is a brotherhood that exists out in the water amongst these guys, and it can be seen while hanging around the grounds during the Eddie. What a memorable day December 8th, 2009 has become in the surfing world.