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Oahu’s North Shore Was Buzzing With Surfers and Spectators.
In the last 23 years, ever since legendary lifeguard and monster wave surfer Eddie Aikau disappeared offshore trying to save his shipmates, the contest in his memory has only run 8 times. Most recently it was run last year after a 7 year wait for the required consistent 20+ foot waves. I was lucky enough to watch in person yesterday, from atop the road sweeping around famous Waimea Bay. This contest is renown around the surfing world, and participation is by invitation only, for it brings very high end performance surfing to the sport that can only be handled by the world’s best surfers.
The weather forecasters were calling for a large swell and the promoters got ready for the possibility of being able to run the event. We’ve been listening to these forcasts all week, monitoring wave height, buoy readings, and wind speeds. It all seemed to be coming together for yesterday and the news, officials, surfers, sponsors and supporters woke before dawn to be in place for an early morning possible go’. Even though I did not know for sure it would be on, I got up before light, got my snacks and camera ready and drove up to the North Shore with my bike on the car. I knew from last year that parking would be difficult, and biking into the Bay would be the best plan. This year the city got more involved and offered additional bus routes to the Bay, and also a shuttle bus from farther out. I could see a difference in the traffic this year with this added transportation. I rode in after a rain had stopped and found that many people had spent the night either in cars or on the ground in order to secure their place to watch.
When it finally became light enough to see the ocean, the waves were huge! At least the 20+feet that were needed, and a pack of 50 – 75 surfers were out on those waves getting warmed up’. (Actually only 30 are invited to participate in the actual event ). We watched and waited while the officials monitored the size and consistency of the swell. The sun was coming up over the ridge on the other side of the road and lit up the Bay with beautiful morning color. All the while the crowd got bigger and more people settled into a rare empty space. Police monitored the roads and the walkways to try to keep them clear, but a huge party atmosphere ruled the morning. I was surprised at how many people on their Hawaii Vacations were here so early.
People checked their phones, their email, and their text messages regularly as the minutes ticked by waiting for the official call. And before our eyes, the waves suddenly started to decline in size. They became inconsistent. And the organizer was quoted as saying that when he asked Kelly Slater, a world famous surfer, what he thought, Kelly said, “I’m not scared of those waves”…… and thus that was part of the mix of information that is needed to call or not call the event. And it was a “no go”. The crowd was disappointed, but understood that this is not just any surf contest. It’s the BEST surf contest that demands the best surf. It’s be another day, maybe another year or more. But the crowd and surfers will be back.