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Some of surfing's best photographers are showing their work from the Eddie Aikau Invitational at an art exhibition in Honolulu's Chinatown.

More of this soon? Photo: Brian Bielmann

The Inertia

The year 2023 couldn’t have been much better for the Eddie Aikau Invitational. Waimea Bay called the day – and it was the day of days. Lifeguard Luke Shepardson, literally a hero of the common surfer, won the event, honoring Aikau, an iconic life-saving professional himself, in the sweetest of ways. It was one for the books.

Well, organizers of the Eddie have put the event on yellow alert for the next week as they eye a swell that still has to make its way across the Pacific. Of course that means things are still up in the air.

“We’ve been looking at a swell for the last few days,” contest director Liam McNamara told local media. “Today, we got an update that this swell does have some good potential to reach that 50-foot height range.”

That’s some big surf. But will it be clean enough? Or will the breeze ruin it? That’s always the question with a swell this far out.

“It’s a matter of the timing of arrival,” Liam continued. “And also the wind. There’s some questions with the wind and also questions with, is it going to peak out overnight? So we need eight hours of competition from eight to 4 p.m. with 50-foot faces. So it’s a lot to ask for. But last year, we got way more than that.”

The call – whether that swell will work or not – has already sparked good-natured back and forth. Grant Baker, for one, sees it as a go.

“If I was the contest director, I would call it on, but that’s why I’m just a surfer,” Baker told Shannon Marie Quirk. “I’d get way too excited and call it on every time.”

Regardless of whether the day is next week or not, the folks at the Eddie and the community are trying to get ahead of the massive crowds that spill off Kam Highway into the Waimea Bay area to gawk at the big wave theatrics. Last year, some 50,000 people reportedly showed up to see the event. Eddie Aikau organizers were pointing its social media audience towards the page for Mālama Pūpūkea-Waimea, a non-profit environmental and cultural organization that released an instructional for potential onlookers.  “This event brings thousands of people to this fragile shoreline and the collective impact by spectators is catastrophic,” the organization wrote. They asked people to stay off the sand, leave belongings at home that could get washed into the ocean from high surf (like beach umbrellas), listen to lifeguards, and…yeah, listen to lifeguards. Place gets pretty chaotic during this event.

The Eddie does have a chance to run during the window for the World Surf League’s Sunset Beach Pro, so one would assume there may be communication between entities to avoid overlapping – and the chaos that would ensue by running two events down the road from one another. CT surfers Jack Robinson, Kelly Slater, John John Florence, and Seth Moniz are in the main draw, as is current Championship Tour commentator Laura Enever.  Barron Mamiya is an alternate. Moana Jones Wong, who’s competing at Pipe (we don’t know yet if she’ll get another wildcard into Sunset), is also an alternate.

All in all, a lot still up in the air for the running of the Eddie. But swell is on the way.


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