According to local news reports, between 20,000 and 30,000 people lined the beach, rocky cliffs and even the highway surrounding Waimea Bay on Oahu's North Shore Dec. 8 to take in the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave surf contest.
Better known to locals as "The Eddie," the memorial event has taken place just eight times in the past 25 years. Held only when wave heights reach a minimum of 20 feet -- which typically means up to 40-foot faces -- and the conditions are reasonably safe for surfing, the Eddie's most recent running took place in December 2004.
This year's winner, 26-year-old Greg Long from California, cemented his victory, and landed a check for $55,000, with a perfect 100-point ride down the 50-foot face of one of the day's biggest waves. In addition, Chilean surfer Ramon Navarro was awarded the "Monster Drop" award, for the surfer who made the "most hellacious-yet-successful takeoff of the contest."
Professional surfing's only sanctioned big wave event, the memorial is held in honor of Eddie Aikau, one of Waimea's first lifeguards, who saved countless lives in the bay's frequently dangerous surf.
Revered for his prowess on enormous Waimea waves, Aikau also surfed professionally during the 1970s. But in 1978, he was lost at sea while paddling for help after the Hokulea, a traditional replica of ancient Hawaiian sailing canoes, capsized in stormy seas off the coast of Maui; he was 31 at the time.
The Eddie was held this year during the middle of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, a series of professional surf contests held in November and December. According to contest organizers, the Triple Crown was expected to generate more than $14 million in revenue for the state of Hawaii.