For the past week Mark Healey has diligently checked the surf forecast, frothing for another chance to compete in The Quiksilver Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational.
The 29-year-old North Shore native is a big-wave surfer by profession and passion, competing on the Big Wave World Tour. Healey is eager to ride Waimea Bay with only a handful of surfers in the water, but hesitates to get his hopes too high.
"I try not to get too emotionally attached because the (weather) models always kind of err on the side of safety, which means they forecast swells to be bigger than they are," said Healey. "They go for the high end of the spectrum, so you have to take any long range forecast with a grain of salt, but I’ve been pretty much looking at (the incoming northwest swell) constantly for the past few days."
The swell Healey is tracking is forecast to hit later today, and will peak tomorrow morning. According to contest officials and meteorologists, wave heights should reach 20 to 30 feet (40- to 60-foot wave faces) by tomorrow. Waimea Bay needs to be at least 20 feet for The Eddie to run, and have the "green light" from contest director George Downing.
Healey has been invited to compete in The Eddie for the past eight years. He received his first invitation on his 21st birthday, an experience Healey describes as "the best present I ever could have got."
"For me, growing up on the North Shore, The Eddie is the most prestigious contest you can win in the surfing world, besides the world title," Healey said. "Once your name is on the list of past winners, it’s set in stone and will live forever. Whenever I see a swell that’s this big when there is a good chance of running (The Eddie) it gets all of my attention. … The thing I really look forward to is being able to surf Waimea Bay the way I want to because it’s usually so crowded."
The Eddie first ran in 1984 to pay tribute to legendary lifeguard Eddie Aikau. He was the first water safety official to be stationed at Waimea. Aikau was one of the most prolific Waimea Bay surfers and was lost at sea while attempting to paddle for help when the Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Hokulea, capsized off of Oahu. He was 31 at the time.
The Eddie has been completed only seven times in its 26-year history.
Clyde Aikau, Eddie’s brother, was the first person to win this specialty event at Waimea Bay on Feb. 21, 1987.
Denton Miyamura won the inaugural contest in 1985, when it was held at Sunset Beach.
The last time The Eddie ran was on Dec. 9, 2009, when Greg Long of San Clemente, Calif., won.
"It really is about the wave and celebrating the ocean," Long said after winning The Eddie. "The respect and camaraderie in the lineup you don’t find in too many places in the world, and this event really encapsulates everything that’s great about surfing: the friendships you make in the water and looking out for one another."