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Eddie keeps thousands waiting

By Rosemarie Bernardo

LAST UPDATED: 1:57 a.m. HST, Jan 21, 2011

Organizers will continue to monitor wave conditions, saying there's still a chance the Eddie Aikau will go with a large-enough swell.

"We will continue to wait," contest director George Downing said yesterday in a post on the contest website. "The holding period runs through Feb. 28, and we know that there is definite potential in the coming weeks for more extra large surf to arise. If that day comes, we will be ready to go again."

The prestigious surfing contest didn't happen yesterday after Downing determined wave conditions were inconsistent. While there were some 20-foot waves, there weren't enough to hold a fair competition.

"It's very easy to get caught up in the excitement when those huge waves come through, and after all of the efforts of the crew and the spectators to get ready for this day. But what keeps this event the greatest big event in the world is never relaxing those standards. Eddie never did," said Downing.

About 15,000 people headed to Waimea Bay yesterday in anticipation of the surf meet, which is held only if wave conditions meet contest standards of at least 20 feet. Spectators either camped overnight or woke up in the early morning hours to drive to and find an ideal parking space. The luminous full moon lit the dark sky as droves of residents and tourists alike walked along Kamehameha Highway before sunrise.

Jennifer Patterson and Jeff Sevadjian of Hawaii Kai camped overnight, sleeping in their car parked five minutes away from the bay. The couple said they didn't expect the competition to be held once they saw most waves were under the 20-foot minimum.

Still, both said they had a great time.

"It's still fun to see all the surfers, be a part of the action," said Patterson.

Twenty-eight of the world's top big-wave surfers were invited to compete yesterday. They include 10-time world champion Kelly Slater and six-time Triple Crown champion Sunny Garcia.

Garcia, who placed third in the last Eddie Aikau event in December 2009, said it was "a bummer" the contest wasn't held but that he still enjoyed spending time with his close friends, which he often doesn't get to do as they all travel extensively to compete in surf meets.

It was a busy day for North Shore lifeguards, with 915 actions as of 3:15 p.m. yesterday, most of which involved warning people to steer clear of the water. Two assists were conducted at Waimea Bay and two at Laniakea, according to Ocean Safety officer Tom Allen.

On the west shore, 305 preventive actions were conducted as well as three rescues, one at Nanakuli and two at Makaha, where surfers got caught in the rip current. Lifeguards also conducted two assists at Makaha.

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