Pixel Postcard: My What Big Waves

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Pixel Postcard: My What Big Waves

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Hawaii Island , Kauai , Maui , Oahu
Jan 22, 2014

curling ocean wave

This week in Hawaii, we are expecting monster surf the likes of which we haven’t seen for over a decade. Everyone’s throwing around the number 50. As in fifty-foot high waves. And people, no doubt, will be riding them. But not competitors in the “Eddie.”

Fifty feet. That’s the height of a five-story building.

Briefly, let me tell you about Eddie Aikau. If you don’t already know who he is, he’s sort of modern-day legend here in Hawaii. There are bumper stickers and t-shirts that say, “Eddie Would Go.” And, as I alluded above, everyone calls the surf competition in his memory, simply, “The Eddie.”

Fifty feet. That’s taller than the telephone pole across the street.

Eddie was the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore, home of the most famous surf break in pretty much the entire world. Eddie is known for making thousands of rescues through the years. He’s also famous for charging waves, surfboard in tow, when no one else would go out, helping to pioneer big wave surfing.

Fifty feet. That’s the height of the lighthouse at Kilauea Point on Kauai.

Eddie also helped pioneer the resurgence in Polynesian voyaging. He was set to make the second journey to Tahiti aboard Hokulea, the famed double-hulled, sailing canoe known for its historic, 2,600-mile journey to Tahiti in 1976, using only celestial navigation—no GPS, no compass, no sextant. When Eddie and his crew departed Honolulu in 1978, they ran into a bad storm almost immediately, and their canoe capsized south of Molokai. After watching his crewmates shiver and shrivel in the water, Eddie paddled off on his surfboard in search of help. Sadly, he was never seen again.

Fifty feet. That’s nearly the length of two tour buses in Waikiki.

The Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave invitational only runs when waves reach face heights of 40 feet (or 20 according to Hawaiian standards). But not today. Because that’s the other thing we learned from Eddie: safety. A north front moved in overnight, bringing with it extremely strong winds and rain. Now, an escort boat always accompanies Hokulea and organizers won’t run the Eddie unless the conditions are safe--as safe as big wave surfing can get.

Fifty. That’s 800 pennies laid out side by side.

If you're near the water, please be safe. Stay on dry sand. Stay on dry rocks.



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