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‘The Eddie’ a no-go as conditions change

                                The Eddie Aikau big-wave tournament set for today is canceled. People enjoyed the beach Monday at Waimea Bay in anticipation of the contest.
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The Eddie Aikau big-wave tournament set for today is canceled. People enjoyed the beach Monday at Waimea Bay in anticipation of the contest.

Organizers of the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational canceled today’s event due to changes in wind and swell conditions on Oahu’s North Shore.

“The Aikau family is very concerned for the safety of the surfers,” said Linda Ipsen, treasurer of the Eddie Aikau Foundation. Ipsen was married to Eddie Aikau for seven years before he died.

Clyde Aikau, the younger brother of Eddie Aikau and director of the Eddie Aikau Foundation, announced Tuesday that they canceled the event after wind conditions worsened overnight.

Ipsen said wind conditions were unfavorable and waves were going to be big but not big enough by morning, so the decision was made to cancel the event.

Tom Birchard, senior forecaster of the National Weather Service, said a weak front was expected to come through Tuesday night and this morning. “Right behind the front at daybreak, the winds are going to be almost straight out of the north over the ocean, about 10 to 15 knots.”

As the day progresses, winds are expected to turn toward the northeast, possibly getting a little stronger at about 10 to 20 knots.

“It’s not the greatest wind direction for surf conditions,” Birchard added. “Ideally, you want the winds blowing offshore. Instead they’re blowing onshore.”

Clyde Aikau said, “That is probably the worst wind conditions you could get.”

Forty surfers — 34 men and six women — were invited to compete in the contest. John John Florence, Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Keala Kennelly, Paige Alms and Makani Adric are among the invitees.

Organizers say they are now looking at Jan. 22 as a possible date for the event.

When the next Eddie runs, it will be the first time women will compete in the prestigious event, according to Ipsen.

The National Weather Serv­ice, meanwhile, issued a high-surf warning for the north- and west-facing shores of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu and Molokai and north-facing shores of Maui through 6 p.m. Thursday.

Surf of up to 40 to 50 feet along north-facing shores and 25 to 35 feet along west-facing shores is expected.

The Eddie was last held on Feb. 25, 2016, when thousands of surf fans flocked to Waimea Bay to watch surfers ride gigantic waves. Hawaii’s John John Florence won the 2016 competition, which was then called the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational.

The event has been held only nine times since its inception in 1984. The contest will run only if surf heights consistently reach at least 20 feet in Hawaii-style measurements (40-foot faces), organizers say. The holding period for the contest began Dec. 14 and ends March 23.

The competition is named after Eddie Aikau, big-wave champion surfer and lifeguard.

Aikau, 32, was a crew member aboard the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule‘a when the crew ran into trouble in choppy waters on the night of March 16, 1978. The canoe capsized between Oahu and Molokai hours after leaving Oahu for its second Tahitian voyage in March 1978.

The next morning, Aikau, equipped with a life jacket and strobe light, used his surfboard to paddle out to seek help for his crew members as he estimated Lanai was some miles away. That was the last time he was seen.

On the night of March 17, the Coast Guard rescued Aikau’s fellow crew members about 15 miles off of Molokai after a Hawaiian Airlines flight spotted their flares.


Star-Advertiser reporter Nina Wu contributed to this story.

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