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The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Surf Competition

This new year started with a bang on the island of O’ahu, North Shore. Every year surfers and watermen track a very special ocean swell. This swell only happens every couple years and hosts many talented water men and water women at the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Surf Competition. The ocean waves have to be 20-25ft. plus Hawaiian scale which is equivalent to 40-50ft. wave faces, the wind has to be ideal and the conditions just right to hold this contest. It is also a very special surf competition because it is held for the late Eddie Aikau. 

man riding a big wave

Eddie Aikau surfing Waimea Bay in the 1970s. Photographer unknown

   A little back story about Eddie, he was a native Hawaiian lifeguard on the North Shore of O’ahu. Being the first ever lifeguard at Waimea Bay. He was known for making daring rescues, having Aloha Spirit and and surfing the big waves of Waimea Bay before surfers wore leashes. He was a well known waterman. In 1978 Eddie was invited to sail on the Hokule’a double-hulled voyaging canoe that sailed by traditional Polynesian star navigation. He agreed to sail with the hand chosen crew. Unfortunately as the crew was crossing the Moloka’i channel, which happens to be known as one of the most dangerous channels the Hokule’a capsized due to rough seas and heavy winds. The crew held on tight for most of the night hoping that help would come along and rescue them. Eddie being the person he was, grabbed his surfboard and paddled into the sea to find help for the crew. The crew was shortly rescued hours after Eddie had left but Eddie was never seen again. It was a very heroic and tragic story but we still carry on his legacy in Hawai’i with this invite only event called the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. 

Every year big wave surfers from around the world are invited to this competition which is only held from December 1st – February 28th. The first time it ran was in 1985 and it has only ran 10 times in the last 37 years it has been held. In the past 15 years the Eddie has been ran three times in the years 2009, 2016 and 2023. So as you can see it’s a very rare occurrence. People from all over the world also travel to watch this surf competition and many businesses in the area close up for the day.

a man riding a wave in the ocean

Local surfer Billy Kemper surfing a huge wave. Photo credit: Beccy Hailstones

This past year it was held January 22nd, 2023  and it was a very special year for two reasons. This was the first year that women were invited to participate in this contest. Many of the woman including:

  • Justine DuPont
  • Makani Adric
  • Emily Erickson
  • Paige Alms
  • Keala Kennelly
  • Andrea Moller 

The woman really held their ground, charged big surfing waves and worked extremely hard to be able to receive an invite. They really did pave the way for other women in this event and also made surfing history!  


a group of people posing for the camera

Justine DuPont being cheered on by her fans. Photo credit: Beccy Hailstones

The second reason this competition was so special was because Hawai’i lifeguard Luke Sheperdson won the Eddie Aikau competition. He was working throughout the day at the lifeguard tower and surfing the competition on his lunch breaks. A very humble man, husband, father and big wave surfer. Very similar to the man Eddie himself who the competition was named after and held for his memory to live on.  

a man riding on the back of a boat in the water

First place winner Luke Sheperdson catching a ride from his  lifeguard to surf the Eddie during his lunch break. Photo credit: Ryan Foley / Instagram @ryantfoley

Lastly we want to thank all the Lifeguards on the North Shore of O’ahu for all their hard work everyday and especially on the day of the Eddie. Also big appreciation to the Hawaiian Water Patrol for keeping all the athletes safe. If in doubt don’t go out! 

Eddie Would Go! 

For more information, event replays and photo galleries go to the

a group of people on a beach

Hawaiian Water Patrol getting prepared for a day of unexpected challenges. Photo credit: Beccy Hailstones 

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