- 08 December 2009 | Surfing
Contestants of the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, fueled by Monster Energy, were calling the waves at Waimea Bay today bigger than any contested the past three times this event ran.
But organizers opted to employ patience and wait for tomorrow as surface conditions are forecast to improve with wave size continuing in the giant range. Wave face heights were in the 25- to 40-foot range today and rising. It made for a dramatic warm-up that thousands flocked to the North Shore of Oahu to witness.
The single lane highway that runs the stretch of the North Shore was bumper-to-bumper by sunrise. Many made the pilgrimage on foot and bicycle late last night, sleeping under the stars to catch the action early.
The invitees to the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau weren't far behind them and headed out at dawn into the salt-spray, mist-filled lineup in search of the "big one".
"Waimea is something special," said contest director George Downing. "You've got to have the right ingredients. You've got to wait until the puzzle of Waimea comes together. You're sending the top notch big wave riders out there and they're all hungry. They all want to catch that wave."
Two-time world champion surfer Tom Carroll, one of the most famous entries to the event, was also its first casualty today. As he dropped into a wave, the full power of the lip crashed down, compressing him and tearing apart his ankle. He left the beach in an ambulance and was bitterly disappointed he will not be surfing again this year.
"I took a wave, it wasn't that big a wave, just a real freaky accident"," says Carroll, 48,The whole load of whitewater hit me all at once right at the bottom of the wave. My ankle separated from my tibia and fibula, so it was just flopping. I'm hoping there's no break in there. I was comfortable out there. There's some big waves coming through, but I was comfortable. It's a real bummer. I was just really ready to go for the Eddie."
Mark Healey is one of Hawaii's most successful big wave riders. He thrilled the crowd with a huge ride to shore than ended when he was swallowed up by a 15 foot shorebreak.
"There's a ton of energy out in the water," explains Healey. "Those sets are really big. It's actually some of the most consistent big Waimea I've seen in years. I'd stay out all day if I didn't think the contest was going to be running tomorrow.
"It's so easy to get hurt out here. There's so many forces at work and it's very unpredictable. Compared to surfing even Pipeline... out here the water hurts you."
Katherine LaFrance, a distance runner from Boston Masachusettes, was impressed by the athleticism of what she saw today.
"I have a lot of respect for surfing as a sport which I never really thought about before.," said LaFrance. "I've done a lot of distance running so I see surfing now as a really serious athletic endeavor. It's mind-boggling.
"It's an adventure, even if you're not out there. The waves, the lush greenery, the people, it's really amazing."
Sheri-Ann Taulla, visiting from Melbourne, Australia, is familiar with surfing, but nothing like this.
"We were here by fluke so we thought we'd come check it out," said Taulla. "It's pretty crazy out there.
These waves are so much bigger (than Australia). Even the photos we're taking don't do it any justice. The vibe's awesome. It's stunning, the beaches are beautiful, even the drive was nice. We're pretty excited to be here."
The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, fueled by Monster Energy, is on standby to take place tomorrow. Invitees will contend for the $98K prize purse and Monster Drop award. This is the only big wave event in the world that is sanctioned by the Association of Surfing Professionals.
Monster Energy will be presenting the Monster Drop Specialty Award for the surfer who makes the most critical drop and rides out of it during the event. The judges will determine the winner the day of the competition and will present the chosen surfer with a unique Monster Drop Specialty Award Trophy.
Held in honor of the legendary Hawaiian waterman, Eddie Aikau, The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, fueled by Monster Energy, gathers the most skillful and dynamic big-wave surfers from around the globe. It is the world's longest running and most prestigious big-wave invitational and is the only one sanctioned by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), the governing body of professional surfing.
The Eddie has only run seven times in the past 24 years. You don't want to miss it when the Bay calls the momentous day. Go to Quiksilver.com/Eddie for swell updates, happenings from the North Shore, and to sign up for text alerts, to make sure you're the first to know when the Bay calls the day!