The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational is in jeopardy, again, thanks to a dispute between sponsors and the Aikau family, again.
Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational
The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, or simply “the Eddie,” is a prestigious surf competition that takes place in Waimea Bay, Oahu, Hawaii. It is named in honor of Eddie Aikau, who was a legendary, native Hawaiian lifeguard. In fact, Eddie was the first lifeguard at the contest’s Waimea Bay location. Eddie also gained notoriety for his big-wave surfing back in the day, too.
However, Eddie Aikau gained legendary status for his ultimate sacrifice as a crew member of the Polynesian voyaging canoe, Hokuleia. During the Hokuleia’s second voyage to Tahiti in 1978, it ran into a storm off the coast of Molokai. The canoe capsized, and the crew hung on as best they could. After hours without any hope of rescue, Eddie attempted to paddle 12-15 miles to Lanai to seek help. But hours after his departure, the crew of the Hokuleia caught the attention of a Hawaiian Airlines flight and were soon rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. Unfortunately, Eddie never made it to Lanai and was never seen again.
And so in 1984, the Aikau Family and Quicksilver established the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational in his honor. But, during since its inception, the Eddie has only run nine times. This is because, in order for the contest to run, specific conditions must be met:
- Open ocean swells of at least 20 feet translating to 30-foot faces nearshore
- Must occur December-February
The last time the contest ran was in 2016 when local boy John John Florence took the title.
The Eddie almost didn’t run last year, though, because of a contract dispute between the Aikau family and title sponsor Quicksilver. At the time, Quicksilver stated that “the family rejected the company’s many offers to increase financial support for future events.” Thankfully, whatever dispute the two parties had were resolved in time to hold the contest last year.
Despite an agreement saving the contest last year, the dispute that arose last year seems to persist. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, negotiations were underway to form a new agreement. However, the Aikau family claims Quicksilver demanded full control of the full event for the next five years. On top of that, Quicksilver allegedly wanted control of the contest’s petroglyph logo trademark. Further, the family claims the brand wants to increase commercialization of the event, including the sale of alcohol on-site.
A spokesperson for Quicksilver denied the alcohol claim and didn’t know the details of the contract negotiations. The spokesperson did say, however, that even if both parties reach an agreement today, it’s too late to hold the contest this year. According to the Quicksilver rep, the 40 days remaining till the contest period begins is not enough to time plan it. For their part, though, the Aikau family says they’re still committed to running the Eddie this year if conditions present themselves.
Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, Final Thoughts
The Eddie is one of, if not the most prestigious surf competitions in the world. And it’s probably the only competition with such a storied heritage. So it’s sad to see the future of the competition jeopardized because of a commercial disagreement. And I’m not even going to begin to speculate on the circumstances surrounding the contract talks.
What I will say, though, is that I’m doubtful that holding the Eddie this year is possible at all. Last year, the dispute nearly derailed the competition because Quicksilver held the permits for the Eddie, not the family. And, according to the City & County of Honolulu, the permits a non-transferable. So if anyone has permits for the competition this year, it’s likely Quicksilver once again. And even if the family is able to find another sponsor soon, they may not have the time to get the necessary permits.
Even with the permits, though, the event has grown so large that the logistics would be difficult to sort out in just over a month. That’s why I’m not confident the contest can run this season at all. And even if a sponsor is found and permits obtained, I’m sure that any version of the competition held this season would be tiny.