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The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational

By: Ethan Shen

As reported by the New York Times, the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational is a surfing competition that tests the best of the best surfers against each other. The competition is notoriously hard to schedule, as the competition only happens when the wave faces are consistently over 40 ft at Waimea Bay. After seven years of waiting, it returned. This year, the winner happened to be a local lifeguard that attended different heats during breaks from his lifeguard job. He accepted the award in his uniform, a yellow lifeguard t-shirt, and red board shorts.

The event is also to celebrate Eddie Aikau, the first lifeguard on the north side of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. As such, the contest is more of a cultural event than an actual proper competition. The contest director, and Eddie Aikau’s brother, purposely kept the leaderboard secret. Emphasizing that this was more of a cultural event, he did not reveal the score until all the competitors were safely back on land. Eddie Aikau is credited with saving more than 500 people as a lifeguard. In his final act, Eddie took part in a group of people looking to canoe the ancient Polynesian migration route. The canoe ended up capsizing, and while everyone was waiting for rescue, Eddie paddled towards the shore on his surfboard to find help.

Everyone else ended up getting rescued, but Eddie was never seen again. As you can see, this competition is more of a local cultural event, celebrated by surfing in the name of Eddie Aikau.

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