The Eddie Aikau Foundation said this year it is presenting the 2019 The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational with a new format and all-star line-up and invitations to a record number of women to participate.
For the 34th annual event at Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore, 32 surfers and 18 alternates have been invited, including nine women, the most ever invited to participate. An opening ceremony to kick off the waiting period will be held Dec. 5, featuring a Hawaiian blessing, entertainment, and opportunity for Hawaii’s keiki to visit with their schools.
“The Eddie Aikau Foundation is excited to have the support of our generous sponsors who have joined us in celebrating and honoring the life and legacy of our brother, Eddie,” said Solomon Aikau in a news release. “This year we honor not only the equality of women in the sport, but some of the longtime surfers in the industry.”
A total of 32 invitees are on the list, including Bruce Irons, Kelly Slater and John John Florence.
In 2017, the competition for the first time extended an invitation to Keala Kennelly, the first woman surfer invited, as an alternate.
This year, Kennelly is an invitee, along with Paige Alms, Emi Erickson, and Andrea Moller. Female alternates invited this year include Bianca Valenti, Raquel Heckert, Justine Dupont, Silvia Nabuco and Laura Enever.
The foundation said this year, the seven legends who take the Bay in the first heat of the day will also be eligible for the Hawaiian Airlines Best Wave of the Day, with a prize of 250,000 HawaiianMiles. The seven legends invited include Derek Ho, Garrett McNamara, Jeff Clark, Mike Ho, Mike Parsons, Peter Mel and Tom Carroll.
Last season, “The Eddie” was a no-go after the holding period — from December to February – came to an end without consistent surf heights of 20 feet or more. Since its inception in 1984, the competition has been held only nine times.
The last run was in 2016, which brought more than 1.2 million fans to the event’s live stream from more than 200 countries around the world. The competition is named after the late, local big-wave legend, lifeguard and hero, Eddie Aikau.
Sponsors of this year’s event include Hawaiian Airlines, Kona Brewing Company, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, Turtle Bay Resort and Waimea Valley.