Eddie Aikau Invitational Surfers Stoke Out Fans

As the waiting period for the 2023/2024 Eddie Aikau Invitational at Waimea Bay comes to a close, some of the watermen and women invited to the prestigious event gathered together just outside of our T&C store at Pearlridge Center to embrace the community, sign some autographs, and perpetuate the stroke of surfing. Legends like Clyde Aikau, Billy Kemper, Landon McNamara, Eli Olson, Kohl Christensen, Tiare Lawrence, and many more turned up to a packed Pearlridge Mauka Center Court to talk story with some of the many surf fans who showed up and braved the long line to meet their surf idols. 

Clyde Aikau

The special gathering was curated by KHON’s Chris Latronic, with lovely music by Rachel Faith. The energy was fully stoked when Uncle Clyde Aikau and his son Ha’a showed up. Clyde has been having some health issues as of late but is recovering well. He shared how he underwent several heart surgeries in the past year and was actually at the hospital just before the signing. Clyde said, “I was at the hospital down the road and said, ‘Son, let’s go try.’ he said, ‘No, dad, you can’t walk.’ I said, aw man, I gotta try.” He continued, “In actuality, I felt like I rode a wave bigger than 100 feet and survived. So you can too! God bless, and thank you for having us.”

Eli Olson

The sentiment of thanks and wanting to give back to the community was reiterated by all those who shared words. Big wave charger Eli Olson said, “It’s just an honor to be a part of The Eddie. Thank you, Uncle Clyde and the Aikau ohana, for keeping the dream alive. Thanks to those behind the scenes who don’t get the light and put in hard work to make this happen. And thanks to all the people who show support. That crowd and that energy, there’s no way to describe it, but it’s incredible.” T&C team rider and big wave legend Billy Kemper remarked, “Coming in and seeing Uncle Clyde here felt like seeing Eddie.” Thanks to the Eddie Aikau Foundation. It’s more than a foundation; it's like a family. I’m super grateful to be here and happy to be around some of the best big wave surfers in the world and just unbelievable humans. Thanks to all the fans who came out here. Enjoy the day.” 

Billy Kemper

Big wave legend Aaron Gold may have summed it up best, saying, “This event was an awesome day to come together as a family of guys and girls that surf the contest. It’s really special, you know? It’s the greatest event in surfing. Period. And for the right reasons. The people behind it are about the community, so to come out here and share that passion that Eddie had for others and putting them first is something that’s special, and I think it’s needed more on our part to pour out into the community like this. For the guys that came, it’s awesome. There are those traveling across the world who weren’t able to make it, but we had a great turnout. All the people, the fans that showed up, it’s just a reminder of how special it is for them to get to meet and spend time with us, and at the same time, we wouldn’t have a sport without them so for us to get together as a family and be able to give back the community it’s a blessing.” 

Aaron Gold

When asked about Uncle Clyde Aikau showing up, Aaron responded, “I’ve been in touch with him and have been praying for him every day and thought he was supposed to be in the hospital, so I was super excited to see him here. I know it’s not easy for him so it was really special that he came and it just shows how important this is for him. He personally reached out to me before this and said, ‘Hey, I want you to rally the guys.’ This was something that was really important to him. So a lot of these guys you see here today were like, ‘Yeah, we’re making him a priority.’ It just shows we come together, you know? When Uncle asks, we’re there, and that’s what you do for family. So that was definitely a highlight. To get to see him and hug him.”

Ryan Sugihara, the president of T&C Surf expressed "I am super excited to see a strong turn out of hardcore fans for this event bringing with them nostalgic items like vintage posters, books, and photos for signatures. An amazing amount of fans are beyond stoked to be able to personally interact with many of these big wave Eddie invitees. We are very appreciative of Clyde and the Aikau family for their collaborative efforts in hosting this event for the local community."

The waiting period for this year’s event only runs till March 12, and with no large swells in sight, the event unfortunately won’t be running this season. The Eddie Aikau Invitational began in 1985 to honor the late waterman and lifeguard who was known for his Aloha and lost his life at sea while attempting to save his crew and the Hokule'a in 1978. The event has taken place only 10 times due to its special requirement that the waves must exceed 20 ft seas or 40ft faces. The “Eddie” is considered by many to be the most prestigious event in surfing. Winning one puts you on a very short list of legendary big wave chargers such as Clyde Aikau, Ross Clarke Jones, Kelly Slater, Bruce Irons, Luke Shepardson and John John Florence. We wait patiently to see if The Eddie will go next winter! 

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