Tens of thousands of people are gathered together in the dark, on a small stretch of coastline, on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Giant waves are beating against the shore like a constant thunder.
There’s a salty haze to the air, giving everything a dreamlike quality. Many people have camped out, putting up tents wherever they can, or sleeping in vehicles. Cars are parked on Kamehameha Highway for miles in either direction of Waimea Bay- the epicenter of all this unearthly energy. An hour before the break of dawn, traffic on the one lane road is at a standstill, as flocks of people take over on their trek to the Bay.
Darkness turns to dawn, and everyone’s eyes move to the ocean. The excitement is sticky and clinging, like the air, as waves crash down into mountains of whitewater rolling through the Bay.
It’s been 7 years since a day like this- 7 years since the Eddie last ran. At last, the very rare wave and weather conditions presented themselves to finally hold the event. Everyone is looking to the ocean, waiting to watch some of the best big wave surfers in the world ride waves at Waimea Bay.
And for the very first time ever, WOMEN would join the lineup.
The Eddie Aikau Invitational is not only the most notable surf event, it stands for something so much greater. The event is a wonderful reminder of the celebration of life, selflessness of character, and the mysterious power of the natural world we inhabit. Surfing in Eddie’s name, this is what we are sharing with our community and with the world.
Eddie Aikau Invitational
Emi Erickson at the Opening Ceremony
"Surfing the event, I was feeling really calm, strange enough. I wasn’t nervous- I even slept fine the night before. Out in the water, I just felt so in awe of everything."
Surfing the event, I was feeling really calm, strange enough. I wasn’t nervous- I even slept fine the night before. Out in the water, I just felt so in awe of everything. The ocean in all its power and glory, was mesmerizing. A glance back to land reminded me of the people watching, which the ocean had completely wiped from my mind. A look down at the black stripes of the board I was sitting on, the board that had accompanied me all my big wave years, reminded me of the fateful journey of family and friendship which led to that moment. It felt like a dream. I think maybe I was in shock, like I couldn’t really believe it was happening.
I definitely was in shock after my first wave turned into a massive wipeout, and somehow my jaw smashed into the hard surface of my surfboard. Then came the sensation of getting ripped in every direction underwater, violent yet strangely peaceful. Meanwhile, Ross Clarke-Jones, my favorite maniac, was catching more waves than anyone, and Kohl Christensen bodysurfed a 20 footer. Absolute mayhem.
My second heat had a bit more action. Closeout sets were nonstop. I kept looking for the waves I wanted, as I watched Mark Healy take off on basically anything and everything. Eventually, I found a nice one, sharing it with Nathan Fletcher, who has long been one of my favorite people to surf with. Chris Owens was also surfing with us, living out his dreams. After finally making a wave in these crazy conditions, I was pretty antsy to find another. Toward the end of the heat, I went for one more wave and got annihilated on the air drop. I felt euphoric.
After all these years, it was on. And the waves were literally massive, bigger than any Waimea swells that any of us have ever surfed. I heard so many of the old timers, well seasoned surfers, saying how they’ve never seen so many close out sets at Waimea Bay in their lives.
It was historic, and I felt honored and powerful to be a woman surfing in the Eddie, surfing one of my home breaks that I love the most, and finally representing the wahine in that way. I have always felt that things were going to change, and that change now has an unstoppable momentum. I saw it in the spectators that day. I heard it in their voices as they raised them louder and louder for the women. And I feel it still.
The ocean has been the most inspirational force in my life. It’s been a mission of mine to share that awe I feel with others, to move them like I’ve been moved. That’s what this day was about.
All said and done, for me, it was a small amount of surfing, and a large amount of interaction, throwing shakas, giving smiles, celebrating with with all the friends, family, North Shore community, and spectators around the event. It’s about surfing, yes, but really about sharing the legacy of Eddie Aikau.