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Preparations under way for big wave contest, surf permitting

By Star-Advertiser Staff

LAST UPDATED: 07:19 p.m. HST, Jan 19, 2011

Preparations are under way to hold the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave surfing contest tomorrow.

The final decision on whether to hold the contest will not be made until tomorrow morning, but surf forecasts indicate the potential for waves large enough to run the event.

In a post on the contest website, George Downing, the contest director, emphasized that the event has not been officially called on, but said "the potential for 'Eddie'-sized surf at Waimea Bay does exist."

Downing said it is better to be ready than ill-prepared.

The swell is predicted to peak early tomorrow so surfers will be on the beach and ready to go immediately  if the contest begins.

"Let's not forget, we are not dealing with a concrete stadium sporting event," said Downing. "Surfers and great surfing events are 100 percent dependent upon many nuances of nature that not even the latest, greatest technology can perfectly predict. What we are saying is that the potential for 20-foot surf does exist. We might go, we might not, but we will always be ready for when the bay calls the day.

"That's what this event, in particular, is about. We will do exactly what Eddie and big-wave riders have always done through the years — watch the swell developments, be ready, and wake up to see what the day delivers."

Surf forecasters are watching a buoy in the North Pacific, which should register the swell this afternoon, providing a better idea of the size of the waves.

The contest is named after Eddie Aikau, the famed North Shore lifeguard who was lost at sea while attempting to go for help when the Hokulea voyaging canoe capsized in 1978.

The 'Eddie' is only run when there is consistent large surf. It was last held on Dec. 8, 2009.

A crowd estimated at more than 20,000 people packed the North Shore to watch the spectacle. People camped out overnight to see the contest and traffic backed up for hours. Parking was also a problem and police cited and towed dozens of vehicles for illegal parking on Kamehameha Highway.

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