50-foot swells mean rare surfing meet is a go in Hawaii

HALIEWA, Hawaii (AP) — After days of massive waves in Hawaii, some reaching 50 feet high and washing over roads and homes, organizers gave the nod Thursday morning to begin the Eddie Aikau big-wave surfing competition.

Organizers of the rarely-held and invitation-only Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau contest on Oahu's North Shore said the waves met the requirements of being 40-feet tall with sustained swells that lasted long enough to run multiple heats.

In more than 30 years, those conditions have only been met nine times, including Thursday. The event was last held in 2009.

Eddie's brother, Clyde, says this is one of the best swells he has ever seen in all the years he has surfed in Waimea Bay. He's the only competitor to surf in all eight previous competitions.

Elite surfers from around the globe grabbed their boards and hopped on planes when organizers gave the green light for the event earlier in the week, despite the fact that it could be canceled at any time. That's what happened earlier this month, when organizers called off the event hours before it was supposed to go ahead because conditions weren't right.

Clyde Aikau said the event isn't about fame or money, it's about honoring his brother's legacy.

The competition began in 1984, six years after Eddie Aikau died.

As a lifeguard, Eddie Aikau is said to have never had a fatality while on duty. When the surf was too big for most in Waimea Bay and the crowds cleared out, Aikau would grab his surfboard and take on the biggest waves around.

Ultimately, however, Aikau gave his life to the ocean in a final attempt to save others. The 31-year-old Aikau was part of a team that was attempting to trace the route of their Polynesian ancestors from Hawaii to Tahiti aboard the traditional Hokulea canoe in 1978.

The vessel encountered rough seas and capsized. Aikau took his surfboard and paddled away for help. He was never seen again, though the rest of the crew was eventually rescued.

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Follow Caleb Jones on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CalebAP

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