The surf community has been blessed this week upon hearing The Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau will run for the first time since 2009. The contest is dedicated to Eddie Aikau, Waimea Bay lifeguard and big wave surfer who died in 1978 attempting to save his crew during a Polynesian voyage to follow the migration route between the Hawaiian and Tahitian island chains.
Since the contest’s inception in 1985, Quiksilver and the surfing community have only been able to run “The Eddie” eight times, and this year the Surf Gods have blessed us with waves that fit the strict contest guidelines.
One member of the surfing community has a major significance not only to the sport, but to this contest in particular; Eddie’s brother Clyde Aikau. At 66 years young, Clyde will be in the lineup among surfers four decades younger, including 23 year-old Oahu native John John Florence. Making this year’s event even more special for Clyde, the rest of the Aikau family and the surf community at large is the fact that this will be Clyde’s last year surfing in the event.
“Putting your life on the line at that extreme level should be a personal, spiritual thing that you would do for yourself,” said Clyde Aikau in a PBS interview. “Trying to do it to be famous is going to get you in trouble.“
Well-known in the community as a Godfather of Big Wave Surfing, Clyde started his career as a teenager when he became Hawaii’s Juniors Division Champion. Amazingly, he’s competed the past 51 years now. Clyde’s personal connection to this competition makes for such an inspiring story, not only being the eldest of the group of competitors but seeing his older brother’s legacy grow to new lengths.
He always had great respect for his brother and served as a Waimea Lifeguard alongside Eddie for 10 years without seeing one fatality. He also spoke about how much Eddie had Waimea Bay dialed in, recalling that Eddie knew exactly how to ride it and taught Clyde the best way to approach the wave. “I said to my brother, “Hey, Eddie, can you take me out there and show me how to surf the Bay?” So we went out and he showed me exactly where to go and where not to go, and what to watch for.” They both surfed competitively together growing up, with Clyde winning the Duke Kahanamoku Classic in 1973 and Eddie winning in ’78; they’re the only two Hawaiians to ever win that competition.
He has competed in “The Eddie” since its inception in 1985, he even won the contest in 1986, edging out the late surf legend Mark Foo. At age 66, Clyde is still charging 30+ foot Waimea without hesitation and competing among greats like Shane Dorian and Kelly Slater, making the surf community and his late brother Eddie Aikau very proud.