There aren’t many sporting events that we think about a week after it’s over.
Not many people remembers the finisher of the Honolulu Marathon or can even recall who won Super Bowl 50. (It was Filex Kiprotich from Kenya and the Denver Broncos, in case you’re wondering.)
But people are still talking about the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, the epic and legendary big-wave contest held at Waimea Bay on O‘ahu North Shore.
It was held for the 9th time in 21 years on Feb. 25, with 28 invited competitors — the most experienced names in the big-wave surfing world — riding waves at least 40 feet tall. The one-day event is more than just a surf meet; it’s a tribute to Eddie Aikau, a local North Shore lifeguard who was lost at sea after paddling for help after the Hōkūle‘a ran into trouble on its first long-distance trip back in 1978.
The last time it was held — and I was there — was back in 2009. We braved the traffic and crowd back then. And we didn’t even stay for the entire contest. (I had to go to work.)
Man, a lot has changed.
This year’s Eddie lured more than 25,000 spectators from around the world who lined the beach, sat on rock walls and stood along the highway to be part of something historic. They posted photos on social media using the hashtag #EddieWouldGo, which trended around the world. The whole eight-hour show was streamed live online, effectively slowing down the Internet connection at countless offices all over the island — including ours at PacificBasin Communications.
Like many of us, I had no intention of driving out to the North Shore to be part of what I knew would be a mess of traffic, crowds and craziness. Instead, I sat mesmerized at my desk at work, watching the live feed on my iPhone. Even on a small screen, the waves looked startlingly huge. As much as I love to surf — and it’s been devastatingly flat on the south shore recently — I would nevernevernever want to be sitting out at a lineup with a swell that big rolling in. That would qualify as one of my worst nightmares.
Yet, there they were, these brand-name surfers from around the world, seemingly cool and collected in the presence of absolute terror and danger. Even Aikau’s 66-year-old brother seemed fairly calm as he surfed some of the biggest waves of his life.
And every media outlet covered it in some way. Esquire, The Washington Post, The Guardian, CNN — if you didn’t mention it, you were missing out on the most talked-about and the absolutely coolest thing happen that day. Even today, more than a week later, folks are still tweeting about #EddieWouldGo, sharing photos or posting congratulations messages to local boy John John Florence, who took the title.
I admit, I watched the replay of the event this past weekend, not at all bored with the rides I had already seen the week before. It was still exciting, still captivating. There really isn’t any sporting event quite like this, one that captures our attention — which, let’s be real, isn’t very focused these days — and ignites our imagination. These surfers seemed like superheroes, and we can’t get enough. At least I couldn’t. And I think it will be a long time before many of us forget it, either.