Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Eddie

Finally got the photos uploaded...

Eddie Aikau is a surfing legend, particularly famous in Hawaii. He was known for fearlessly surfing the biggest waves, as well as being a North Shore lifeguard, braving 30-foot Waimea Bay waves to save lives. Unfortunately, he was lost at sea in 1978 at age 31 in a tragic incident: he was part of a Polynesian Voyaging Society-recruited crew attempting a voyage between Tahiti and Hawaii on a double-hulled canoe, much as the ancient Polynesians had once used to travel between island chains. The canoe sprung a leak and capsized, and after waiting some time for help to arrive, Eddie volunteered to paddle his surfboard to Lanai for help. The rest of the crew was eventually found, but he was not. Today, surfers use the mantra "Eddie would go" to inspire themselves to tackle intimidating waves, a saying you can find on bumper stickers and the like, and you can find other cute variations of the saying as well ("Mom would go", "Eddie would tow", etc.).

A surfing contest in the famously huge waves at Waimea Bay is held in his honor: The Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau. It can be as often as annual, but it requires such huge waves that there may not be any day in a given year that is suitable for the event. There was recently a dry spell, with the last event being in 2004. But the contest was held once again on December 8, 2009, so I cut two classes the week before finals to go out and see it with the Housemate.

To get a good view, we had to get there early. Since everyone else was getting there early, too, we had to park about a 30-40 minute walk away from the bay (also, there was a chance the waves would be big enough to close the road down). It was still dark when we started out, but the sky began to lighten as we walked. We got there about ten minutes before sunrise, stopping to watch the competition just off the road, looking down on the bay. Some surfers got in the water not long after that, testing the waves. At this point, it was still uncertain whether the competition would be held, since the competition officials were waiting to see if the swell was sufficient. But they called it on, and the crowd on the beach (where they could actually hear the announcement) roared. The competition started at 8 am.

I know I posted pictures of beautiful big waves back in November, but these waves are even bigger in most cases, I have different kinds of shots, and it was a different event, after all, with the competition going on. And I was using the Housemate's camera for almost all of them, so I actually had a working screen. So exciting (I need a new camera).

Here's the bay as the sun was rising high enough to shine down on some of the waves. The break that the surfers were all catching is the left-most wave that is not in the foreground.

I was pretty obsessed with this one shore break wave, mainly because the spray was catching the sun just right so you could see a rainbow in it. I love rainbows. Here's one with less rainbow but a nice hollow barrel. This one is the Housemate's favorite, since the barrel is so suitable for surfing. You can see the "green room", as they call it, not to be confused with the backstage green room.

Here is one with a less hollow barrel but a nicer curtain of spray. Still doesn't catch much of the rainbow, though.

This one has a more impressive crashing wave, and it catches the rainbow better.

Believe me, I had a lot more of that break, and it took me a long time to narrow it down to those. Which is the best of the three? I think I like the third best.

The bottom half of this photo could almost look like a snowy field, there's so much white water.

OK, finally some surfers in the competition! (You may have to click for a full size version.)


Not a good photo, but it's the only one that I have any clue who the surfer is. I think that this is Kelly Slater, modern surfing legend, riding the wave in. But I could be wrong about that.

Three surfers drop in

Nice big wave

We didn't stay the whole day, unfortunately, because of finals and final papers. Apparently the huge waves were more consistent in the afternoon. Oh well. It was a fun day.


Sebastian said...

"Hahahaha, big waves, yeah right..."

:: few photos later ::

"Oh, right, those dots are the surfers... so the waves..."

:: hang-jaw ::

Cool photos. Crazy surfers. I remember when my friends were learning to skateboard and I thought THAT was stupid and dangerous.

Can't begin to imagine the thrill of riding a wave though...

Eleni said...

It does lose the scale without the surfers. I was standing near some people set up with some serious long paparazzi lenses. If I had something like that you could see the surfers beyond a few pixels.

Yeah, I can't imagine wanting to go out on something like that (think just how many tons of water that is trying to crash down on you). But if you could pull it off... it would be quite the rush indeed.