Rumors spread along the North Shore of Oahu almost as fast as wildfires take out vineyards and cannabis farms in Sonoma County, so in the October days following the official declaration that the 2017/2018 Quiksilver Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau was called off, rumors spread as to the who, why, when and how much.
According to one North Shore resident who wished to remain anonymous: “It’s all about money, and control of the contest. There is a struggle for control between two families who have been involved with the contest for a long time. They both are hard-headed, and that has resulted in the contest being cancelled.”
Officially, Quiksilver announced: “Quiksilver has decided that it has run out of time to sponsor the ‘Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau’ big wave surf event for 2017-2018.
Quiksilver has been honored to celebrate the life of champion big wave surfer and Waimea Bay lifeguard Eddie Aikau. Quiksilver is proud of the tradition of the event which underlines its respect for Eddie Aikau, the Hawaiian people and the community at large, and Quiksilver greatly appreciates more than 30 years of partnership with the Aikau family.”
The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau began in the mid-80s as a tribute to Eddie Aikau, a Hawaiian lifeguard and surfer who died heroically but tragically in 1978 when the Hawaiian voyaging canoe he was on board foundered in the Molokai Channel – and Aikau volunteered to paddle to get help.
Aikau was never seen again, and five years later, the contest was inaugurated in his honor. The contest is held only on the biggest, most historic days at Waimea Bay. That has happened only nine times in that 33 years, but such high standards guarantee the contest is epic, and the contest has given many classic moments to the history of big-wave surfing: From Brock Little taking off on a bomb in the 1990 Eddie, to John John Florence surviving the “Brock Swell” of 2016/2017 to win the whole deal.
But not this year, apparently. On Sunday, October 7, the Aikau family announced: “When the family declined to surrender control of the Eddie for five years on the terms Quiksilver was demanding, Quiksilver terminated negotiations,” the Aikau family said.
A similar situation arose during the winter of 2016/2017, when word went out in October that the Eddie wouldn’t go because of a breakdown in negotiations between the Aikau family, Quiksilver and the World Surf League. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and the contest was announced back on November 28 in the nick of time – a couple of days before the traditional opening ceremonies on December 1.
Which was a good thing, as the ninth running of the contest since 1983/1984 was held during the infamous “Brock Swell” on February 25, 2016 – one week after Brock Little passed away from cancer at the age of 49.
Like Brock, Waimea was big and mean and tricky and nasty and challenging and difficult on a climate-change fueled winter swell. The Bay kicked the okole of 24 of the world’s best big-wave surfers, and it was local lad John John Florence coming out on top.
Will that happen again this year? A last-minute reprieve in November? According to Quiksilver vice president of sales and marketing Glen Moncata, that is unlikely: “It just got to the point where there’s 40 days left,” Moncata said. “We just can’t do that, so we basically said we’re not going to negotiate this year, but in the future for the 2018 and 2019, we’ll be happy to sit at down with them and try to work something out.”
But hang in there Eddie fans and masochists. Hawaiian politics are funny (See: Maui ferry, Rail Transit Project, last year’s Eddie) and things happen with their own rhythm and logic out in the middle of the Pacific. No one wants to see the contest cancelled, especially with the north Pacific going lolo as it has been the past few years.
Don’t be surprised – but be glad – if cooler heads prevail again, and a last-minute reprieve occurs and the Eddie comes back alive for the winter of 2017-2018.