Massive swells permitting, the “Eddie” big-wave surfing contest could go again this winter after all.
Honolulu city attorneys are working to find a way to hold the contest even though the event’s permit is nontransferable and invalid following the severing of ties between Quiksilver and the family of surfing legend Eddie Aikau.
“We are pleased to hear that Quiksilver has offered to work with the Aikau family and the city to find a solution that allows the Eddie to go this season,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a statement Monday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Aikau’s family held a news conference to implore city officials to allow them to hold the world-famous contest this year at Waimea Bay.
In addition, Quiksilver issued a news release Monday saying it was willing to give the Aikau family its permit to run the event.
However, surf tournament park permits are awarded through a competitive application process, according to the city, and Quiksilver’s application was approved for an event named “In Memory of Eddie Aikau” for the December-to-February holding period. The problem is that permit transfers are prohibited.
“That said, with all the parties willing to come together, city attorneys are working to find a way to move forward so the Eddie can go this year,” the mayor said.
One potential solution, Caldwell added, is to have Quiksilver “hire” an Aikau Foundation management team to implement the permit and run the contest on behalf of Quiksilver.
“Eddie Aikau was known as a person who could settle disputes between diverse parties. In his honor, we are committed to bringing everyone together to hooponopono and work towards finding a solution for this world-class contest that unites all of Hawaii,” Caldwell said.
Dozens of big-wave surfers, surfing industry professionals and supporters attended the news conference at the Aikau home in Punchbowl.
“We’re fighting really hard to continue the legacy of Eddie Aikau,” said brother Solomon Aikau, president of the Eddie Aikau Foundation.
The surf competition was established in 1984 to honor Eddie Aikau, a skilled waterman and the first North Shore lifeguard. He died in 1978 while attempting to get help for fellow crew members of the voyaging canoe Hokule‘a, which had overturned in waters off Molokai.
In its release issued Monday morning, Quiksilver said it had planned to continue running the event it created 31 years ago in partnership with the Aikau family.
“But Quiksilver’s multiple offers of substantially increased monetary support for future events were declined by agents of the Aikau family over months of negotiations,” the release said.
Family members denied money had anything to do with the dissolution of the relationship.
Family attorney Seth Reiss said only that “nonmonetary” issues stood in the way over roughly six months of negotiations, and the family was disappointed Quiksilver had characterized their differences that way.
Reiss and other family members declined to offer any details about what kept them from reaching agreement, describing the talks as confidential.
“This is not a day where we want to talk about the issues,” said Clyde Aikau, another brother of Eddie Aikau, at the news conference. “There’s always another day for that.”
In Quiksilver’s news release, the company said it wanted to continue “growing its investment in the Eddie and in the community.”
“Quiksilver was prepared to commit to a long-term sponsorship of the event. But ultimately, an agreement could not be reached with the new representatives managing the event for the Aikaus,” the release said.
The latest 10-year contract between the family and Quiksilver expired at the end of April, roughly one month after the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Reiss said the family is discussing sponsorship by other entities.
The contest, with a holding period from the beginning of December to the end of February, requires a minimum of 20-foot wave heights and has been staged just nine times in 31 years.
The last competition was held this year, on Feb. 25, when local surfer John John Florence rode huge El Nino-driven waves to victory.
“It’s very important to keep the status quo,” Solomon Aikau said. “The event is important to the state of Hawaii. It’s part of our culture. We hope to see the legacy continue.”
Veteran big-wave surfer Mark Healey said he attended Monday’s news conference to lend his support to the Aikau family.
“It’s the most prestigious event in the world. It’s very much Hawaii,” said Healey, who has competed in three Eddies, including this year’s. “I’ve seen ‘Eddie Would Go’ stickers all over the world.”
Windward Community College surfing educator Ian Masterson, “the surf professor,” said he’s still hopeful for some kind of resolution.
“No one wants to point fingers,” Masterson said. “We just want to honor Eddie.”
In a statement, World Surf League CEO Paul Speaker acknowledged the importance of the Eddie to the surfing world and to the Hawaiian culture.
“Quiksilver has been a phenomenal supporter of the event, the Aikau family and Eddie’s legacy and it is disappointing that this partnership may be coming to an end. That said, the WSL wishes the Aikau family nothing but future success and our support as it potentially begins the next chapter on this event,” the statement said.
Quiksilver CEO Pierre Agnes said in a statement that if the city will allow it, the company will “stand by to run the event with the family if they so choose,” adding, “It is our most heartfelt wish to see the tradition of the Eddie carried on without interruption.”