All gather on Oahus north shore when the big ones come


WAIMEA BEACH -- The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational draws big crowds on short notice. The Eddie, as it is called, has no set date. It comes when the 30-foot-plus waves come, anytime from Dec. 5 to 25, or thereabouts.

Last year, the waves came on Dec. 15. The other contests were put on hold. These waves were too dangerous for all but the very best. Thats the criterion for The Eddie: dangerous waves.

Radio reports spread the word. Some people knew the big ones had come when they heard the thunder as the swells collapsed against the shore. More than 5,000 people ditched work or school that day and headed for Waimea Beach.

The writer with his surfboard in the back of his Bronco at Waimea Beach.Rows of cars lined the side of the road. Most were pickup trucks, Volkswagen buses or ratty hatchbacks bearing surf racks that probably cost more than the car.  People walked alongside the road, cup of coffee in hand, toward the bay.

Thirty average-looking men were chosen to surf in six heats of five surfers. They paddled out from the shore on their boards into waves that, on that day, reached nearly 60 feet, the size of a six-story building, and moved at speeds of 40 mph.

Most eyes were on surfer Bruce Irons as he dropped straight off the lip of a curling wave, an easy 30 feet, skipped over the water and flew through the air, still on his surfboard.

He hit the water about 40 feet down the wave and still had another 20 feet to carve out a long bottom turn. At that point, the people on the beach were on their feet.

Irons had surfed one of the largest waves in tournament history and went home with the $100,000 purse.

To contact reporter Brian Berusch, send e-mail to [email protected].

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