Despite the hype, anticipation and extensive preparations, the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave competition was called off this morning when the anticipated 40- to 50-foot swell didn’t show up on time.
“We had high hopes that we’d be running today, but unfortunately this storm kind of blew itself up over the north of us and is heading more toward California,” said Glen Moncata, the contest director. “So many forecasters said this is your day. Mother Nature isn’t always kind to everybody.”
Computer models showed the swell arriving this morning in time for an 8 a.m. start to the big-wave contest that is only held when surf is consistently about 40 feet at Waimea Bay (20 feet by Hawaiian measurements).
But when the waves hit buoys north of the islands, the timing of the swell changed and as the sun rose over much smaller conditions, it became clear that the waves wouldn’t meet contest standards until much later in the day — too late to hold the event.
Thousands of people still came to the North Shore before dawn in hopes of witnessing the competition between the best big-wave surfers in the world at the place where big-wave surfing was born.
Kekoa Ho, who drove up to the North Shore with his family at 4:30 a.m. and walked a half-mile to Waimea Bay, walked back to his car when he heard the news.
“I want to beat the traffic back,” he said.
Ho, pushing a 4-month-old baby in a stroller, said he understood why the contest isn’t a go.
“It’s Mother Nature, cannot help,” he said.
Daughter Kenzie said she was “disappointed,” that the contest wouldn’t be held.
“It would have been nice,” she said.
But she said she was also looking forward to going home and getting some sleep.
Big-wave surfer Kai Lenny, an Eddie alternate, said he was still happy to be at the contest, get a surf session in and soak up the atmosphere of the event.
“I’m bummed the event is not running, but Mother Nature makes the choice here” Lenny said.
Lenny planned to surf more waves at Waimea today and then fly back to Maui and his home break of Jaws.
Jodi Wilmott, a World Surf League spokeswoman, said contest organizers considered splitting the event and holding half of it this afternoon and finishing on Thursday morning.
But the surf wasn’t expected to peak at the right heights until about 2 p.m., which didn’t leave enough time since the contest permit expired at 4:30 p.m. and Thursday’s surf wasn’t expected to remain at peak levels with enough time to finish the contest.
The National Weather Service said the buoy readings showed the swell arriving about 6 to 8 hours behind wave model predictions.
The surf will still likely reach 40 to 50 feet, but it will happen later in the day into tonight.
Running the Eddie requires about 6 to 8 hours of consistent 40-foot surf during the day.
The event’s namesake, Eddie Aikau, was the first lifeguard on Oahu’s North Shore. Aikau lost his life in 1978 while attempting to get help for crewmates aboard the Hokule’a, a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe that capsized in rough seas en route to Tahiti.
The contest has only run eight times in its 31-year history because conditions haven’t been exactly right.
There’s still a chance it could run this month.
The holding period for the Eddie continues until Feb. 29.
Meanwhile, a high surf warning is posted from noon until 6 p.m. Thursday for north and west shores of Kauai County, Oahu and Molokai, north shores of Maui and west shores of Hawaii island.
A high surf advisory is in effect for the north shores of the Big Island.
Surf along north shores is expected to build to 25 to 35 feet this morning to 40 to 50 feet late today through tonight.
West shores can expect 15- to 25-foot surf this morning, building to 25 to 35 feet later today.
Forecasters said the surf is dangerous and could cause property damage.
“Localized coastal flooding is possible in the warning area due to significant wave set up and run up along the beaches exposed to this swell, especially during each high tide from later today into Thursday,” the weather service said.
Star-Advertiser reporter Nick Abramo contributed to this report.