"The Eddie" opens but surfers await the big waves

Fri Dec 2, 2011 4:05am EST
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By Will Swanton

WAIMEA BAY, Hawaii (Reuters) - Boards broke, singlets were ripped clean off surfers' backs, but while 15-foot waves crashed down on competitors at the nearby World Cup of Surfing, the swells were still too small for 'The Eddie'.

Named in memory of a legendary surfer lost at sea in 1978, The Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau contest can only be staged when swells tower above 20 feet. Thursday's opening ceremony at Waimea Bay was emotional and spiritual, but the waves were just not big enough.

In 26 years, there have been just eight days of competition.

Eleven-times world champion Kelly Slater was on hand at the ceremony, the most photographed surfer in the world was the one taking snaps -- that is what The Eddie means to surfers.

Slater closed his eyes as the bay was blessed by priest Billy Mitchell.

"Eddie didn't live being afraid to die," Mitchell said, as the weather cleared and bathed the bay in sunshine.

"His spirit of generosity, his spirit of caring, his spirit of helping -- we can all feel that here, we can take it away with us, we can live it,"

Aikau was aboard a double-hulled voyaging canoe on a 30-day, 2,500-mile journey from Hawaii to Tahiti organized by The Polynesian Voyaging Society when it capsized off Molokai.   Continued...

<p>Hawaiian Greg Long surfs to win The Quiksilver In Memory Of Eddie Aikau big-wave surfing contest in this 2009 handout picture. REUTERS/Quiksilver/Handout</p>