Stab Magazine | Scenes From The Eddie Ceremony On A Most Serene Day At Waimea Bay

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Scenes From The Eddie Ceremony On A Most Serene Day At Waimea Bay

Portraits from the most prestigious and grassroots surf contest in the game

style // Dec 1, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

“I promise you, The Eddie will go.”

 The seven words every Hawaiian has been dying to hear for two years were finally delivered on Thursday at the opening ceremony for the 2018/19 Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, a moving Waimea Bay presentation steeped in cultural significance.

If you didn’t speak ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i, the true native Hawaiian language — read: not pidgin — spoken by most lifelong residents of the island chain to some extent, the ceremony presented plenty of opportunities to learn a few choice words, and some important Pacific Islander traditions passed from generation to generation, and to see first-hand how deeply loved, respected, and important the Aikau family is to the people of Hawaii.

 

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The Eddie circle would wake for one heavy game of Duck-Duck-Goose.

Photography

Sam Moody.

The contest affectionately known as The Eddie began at Sunset Beach in 1984, before being moved to Waimea Bay, part of the parcel of Oahu that the Aikau family was assigned stewardship over generations ago, overseeing the safety and cultural correctness of both the Bay and adjacent Waimea Valley.

Eddie Aikau famously lost his life trying to save the crew of the Hōkūle’a, the traditonal recreation of the wa’a kaulua (a double-hulled voyaging canoe) that brought the first Polynesians to Hawaii way back in the day. The Hōkūle’a was meant to launch a Hawaiian cultural renaissance with it’s maiden voyage in 1975, but when the canoe became stranded and Eddie paddled away from it on a surfboard to find help for the rest of the crew — only to become lost at sea while the others were ultimately rescued — Eddie himself, along with his selfless act in which he paid the ultimate price, became a huge part of that Hawaiian cultural revival.

The message of the importance of his act to the Hawaiian people was lost to an extent under Quiksilver’s running of eight successful Eddie Aikau Invitationals over 32 years. Though the contest and its ceremonies were always respectful, it was still about the juggernaut of the contest: grabbing eyeballs, selling merch, stamping Quik on every inch of it. Not that anyone complained too loudly about that — that is, until Quiksilver announced in late 2016 (mere months after John John Florence had secured a lifelong dream of winning The Eddie in unforgettable surf) that they would no longer be hosting the comp due to a lack of resources.

The Aikau family has said since the first announcement they would revive the contest, once even stating that they don’t care if they have to hand out coconuts for trophies. On November 29, they made due on that promise through partnerships with local schools including culturally-driven Kamehameha Schools and foundations like the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. 

“Getting this festival back with the family, with the Hawaiian community, is truly an honor. [Eddie] is a hero for our lāhui, for our people representing Hawai’i,” said Lāiana Kanoa-Wong, an esteemed community member and educator who once taught the Aikau children and now works as a Cultural Specialist in the Ho’okahua Department at Kamehameha Schools (so yes, he pronounces Hawai’i correctly, with the W as a V and the pause between the I’s).

“We’re so honored and inspired by him that we want to honor him in any way, and his family who have just been an amazing class of beautiful people representing humbleness and aloha in every way, so what an honor that we get to honor them, honor Eddie, honor our wa’a Hōkūle’a and all that that represents: our culture, our people, our language, our stories.”

The ceremony occurred in three parts. The first, a three-part Hawaiian protocol consisting of mele chants, a haka dance, and a blessing ceremony complete with the opportunity for ho’okupu (physical offerings), was especially appreciated by Kamehameha Schools graduate and 2x Eddie invitee Zeke Lau.

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Heavy youth: hometown hero, Zeke Lau.

Photography

Sam Moody.

Next up was the traditional circling of the big wave guns by all the invitees and alternates, and Kanoa-Wong led the aha ‘awa ceremony along with respected local cultural leader Kumu Hula Kawika Mersberg from Halau Ku Mana Public Charter School. ‘Awa is the tradition Samoa drink that is very similar if not identical to Fiji’s kava, and apucoconut bowls were handed out to the athletes to receive the blessed beverage as Kanoa-Wong instructed, “Save your apu until after everyone has had their ava, hiki nō?” (Rough translation: “Hold onto your cups, ok?”)

Amid all the cultural richness, several athletes were seeing their Eddie dreams come true. Retiring former world champion Joel Parkinson received an invite out of respect for his skills and illustrious career, despite not being known for big wave riding (save for double-to-triple-overhead Snapper earlier this year). Big wave standout Nathan Florence received his first official invite instead of being an alternate, securing a spot in the contest next to his brother John. And perhaps most importantly, newly crowned Pe’ahi Challenge champion Keala Kennelly became the first woman to ever be invited to the Eddie.

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Surprise invitee, Joel Parkinson will get the call up, this being his last year competing in Hawaii on tour.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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Eddie invitee, Jaws champ, the inimitable Kealla Kennelly.

Photography

Sam Moody.

“This has got to be the biggest honor of my lifetime,” the Kauai native said, still stiff from the beatings she took at Jaws but frothing for more at Waimea. “I had an Eddie poster in my room growing up, I had an Eddie Would Go sticker on my car, and in school I even did a book report, “Who’s your biggest hero?” — it’s Eddie Aikau.”

Love for Eddie’s legacy and blessings for the athletes there to honor him was apparent at the Bay. Before every athlete drank their ‘awa, they all solemnly said ver their apu, “E ola(live on)…e ola Eddie Aikau.” Then the group carried those blessings with them as they paddled out and circled in front of the Hōkūle’a that made the voyage up to Waimea from Honolulu for the ceremony, with Kanoa-Wong explained the importance of these words they’d all spoken.

“When you say something over the apu, it’s like an affirmation,” he said. “It’s something you’re committing to and you’re going to support, something you believe in. So everyone says it together: E ola Eddie Aikau. Let his name, let his legacy, let his family live on.”

With next week’s forecast looking solid, there’s good intel that the Eddie might have its day sooner than later. Click through the gallery above, and scroll south, for a look at a beautiful day at Waimea Day. 

 

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Pops and Mason Ho, two generations of North Shore firepower and froth.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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Jamie O’Brien ws way happier than this Charlie Brown capture might imply.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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Koa Rothman, fresh from a Final’s finish at Jaws.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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Surfing’s foremost scholar in Gnar, Nathan Fletcher.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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The Hawaiin cowboy himself, sans Stetson, but standing taller than ever after threepeating at Jaws.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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Nathan Florence aka Sporty Spice.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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John John Florence and Mason Ho, geeking out on the hardware.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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The Champ.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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Once more unto the breach.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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Two generations of frightening fitness and fearlessness in Hawaiian juice: Sunny Garcia and Koa Rothman.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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What a fucking weapon: Joel Parkinson.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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Kai Lenny is one handsome freak of nature.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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WSL Big Wave Champ, Makua Rothman.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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Pops, all smiles after getting blown out of Backdoor pits earlier this week.

Photography

Sam Moody.

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