The opening ceremony for The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave invitational took place on the sands of Waimea Bay, on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, today. The 28 Invitees and 28 Alternates of this year's event shared in the celebration with the family of Eddie Aikau to celebrate the life of one of Hawaii's most respected big wave riders and heroes.
The holding period of The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau begins this Saturday, December 1, and runs through February 28, 2013. It is a one-day event that is only held if waves hit 40 feet (wave face height) or more. This is the 28th year of the event and it has only been held a total of eight times - the last being in December of 2009. California's Greg Long won that year and today he addressed all who gathered at Waimea Bay with an emotional message.
"You win competitions and with that comes excitement, but in my eyes, this isn't a competition. It's a celebration of the legacy of Eddie Aikau and the waves we share out here. We are the luckiest people in the world to be able to do what we do and be a part of this family of big wave riders.
"Eddie encapsulated all of it to the highest level. He's a hero, a legend, and he has touched the lives of myself and so many others. You can't put words to that. This is the amazing celebration of Eddie's life."
Eddie's younger brother Clyde, 63, is still an active surfer in this event, and today he welcomed the new, young Invitees to the event - like Alex Gray (Ca., USA), Ian Walsh (HAW), and John John Florence (HAW), the youngest surfer of the group at just 20 years of age.
Aikau said he looked forward to the new generation of big wave riders taking the helm and attributed his longevity in big wave riding to the inspiration and motivation they provide.
"My message to all you older surfers out there is to get out there with the young guys," said Clyde." For me it is my son who keeps me going, keeps me pushing the boundaries, and the young guys I see alongside me in the lineup.
"I look forward to riding in the same heat as John John Florence," he said, receiving cheers from the 1,000 people gathered for the ceremony. "Let's rock and roll!"
As is also the tradition on this day, two outstanding watermen were recognized for heroic rescues they made during the past twelve months: They were surfer Gavin Sutherland, and ocean cinematographer Mike Prickett.
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About Eddie Aikau:
Just 32 years of age when he was lost at sea during an ill-fated voyage of Hawaii's Hokule'a double-hull sailing canoe in 1978, Aikau was a young man at the height of a career equally dedicated to big-wave riding and lifeguarding at historic Waimea Bay. Filled with a pure passion to ride giant surf, take care of his fellow man, and uphold his Hawaiian culture and family values, Aikau became the benchmark by which all big wave riders are measured.
Kahu Billy Mitchell welcoming all everyone to The Bay. Photo: Servais
Defending Eddie Champ, Greg Long, was all smiles. Photo: Bielmann
This North Shore season is gearing up to be a big one for Kelly Slater. Photo: Bielmann
The Eddie Opening Ceremony was a who's who of big wave surfing. Photo: Coots
enjoying another Eddie paddle out. How many is that Tom? Photo: Bielman