Eddie Would...Uh, Well, Maybe...
The Eddie Aikau contest did not run on Wednesday. A giant letdown after the gears of Quiksilver’s big wave hype machine kicked into full throttle Monday afternoon, promising a day of epic waves and thundering wipeouts and unadulterated machismo. All of this coming just a week after Quiksilver had to justify its earlier decision not to run the fabled contest for the first time since 2009, despite internet keyboard warriors taking the company to task. Quik was accused of not having the money to run the contest even if conditions were perfect, holding the opening ceremony as nothing but a publicity event to distract attention from from a fading brand with empty coffers.
The truth is that The Eddie – the contest – has grown to overshadow Eddie – the man – it once honored. Eddie Aikau’s famed fearlessness at Waimea Bay, both as a surfer and public servant, stood leaps and bounds above many of his peers at the time. The contest began as a way to highlight Aikau’s bravery, and encourage acts that were, at the time, uncommon.
Big Wave surfing has changed significantly since the inaugural Eddie ran in 1985 (at Sunset Beach, rather than Waimea Bay). Hell, surfing and especially competitive surfing, has shifted gears and grown over the last three decades in ways that were previously unfathomable. The apparatus that surrounds running a contest the magnitude of The Eddie the right way has gotten to be enormous. And when you look at all of that clutter that’s now stuck to the sides of a prestigious contest, you have to wonder: is it the ocean that’s been holding the contest back, or the bullshit attached to the contest?
In an El Nino year when Jaws, Mavericks, and any number of other big wave spots have turned on and provided a metric fuckton of impressive surfing, a decision has to be made: is running The Eddie at Waimea, a big wave spot that is inherently difficult to predict and score, more important than running it in pumping surf somewhere else? Is it any less of an honor to run at Jaws, where paddle surfing has once again trumped the tow-in movement? Clyde Aikau, Eddie’s brother and former event winner himself, is on record at least as of 2009 as believing that running at Waimea is important.
The truth is, that if this is an event that is going to continue to honor a man and his connection to a place, The Eddie should run at Waimea, and it should run only when conditions are right for it to run. But a big deal should only be made about it when it runs, and only IF it runs. It’s a disservice to the man’s memory to use it as a marketing tool, a way to keep eyes glued to a branded event. Anything and everything related to the event is slathered in Quiksilver marketing. Don’t believe it? Explain how this, from Quiksilver’s event website honors the man’s memory and feats of courage:
An “Eddie Would Go” trucker hat will not make you a better, braver surfer.
Take the event away from Quiksilver, or any brand for that matter. Let the local government handle the contest: if you’re going to use the man’s memory to promote anything, allow it to help promote conservation of the land and traditions he fought and died to protect. Let the contest run, and let it run at Waimea in the right conditions, without the spectre of any brand’s agenda overshadowing, overhyping, and overselling it.
Eddie would go, but he sure as shit wouldn’t need to talk so much about it.