The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Surfing Invitational is going on today!

“The waves are going off right now.” That’s the typical phrase you’ll hear here in Hawaii. With this being the El Nino season, the waves on the north and west shores have been bigger and better than normal, and it looks like the islands will be experiencing one of the biggest days in history. Forecasters are saying some waves will have 60-foot faces. The last time the waves were this big was the winter of 1969. That was forty years ago; this is now.

If you happen to be on Oahu today, the “Eddie Aikau,” an annual big wave surfing invitational, is being held. The “Eddie,” as locals call it, is one of the few events that is held only if waves reach 25+ feet. Today’s event will be a particularly special day because the two past winters didn’t have waves that high, so the event wasn’t held. The bravest and best surfers are called on a moment’s notice and fly out to Hawaii to participate in the “Eddie.”

You might not know why this is called the “Eddie Aikau.” Eddie was a respected waterman and lifeguard who came from a Hawaiian family on the North Shore. He was elected to be a crew member for the Hokulea voyage, which was a special journey sails from Hawaii back to Polynesia, where the islands first inhabitants arrived several hundred years ago. The boat got caught in a storm several miles out to sea, but were close enough to paddle back to the islands. Eddie volunteered for the rescue mission, boarded his surfboard and paddled back solo to get help. The boat was rescued but Eddie was never found.

The “Eddie Aikau” is a special event that honors one of Hawaii’s finest watermen. The event is always held in Waimea Bay. Locals and tourists alike flock to the Bay to see brave surfers ride their 10-foot guns and paddle into giant waves. It truly is a sight to behold.

Officials called the event at around 7 a.m. today, and traffic has been backed up since 5:30 this morning. If you have the luck and privilege of seeing this event, bring a beach chair, and some binoculars. Waimea only breaks when the waves are 20+ feet and clean, and the surfers look like little rag dolls on the waves even from the closest vantage point. If you can’t make it up there, you can watch the event online HERE or watch the highlights later today at the official event website.

A word of caution: don’t get in the water! The ocean is not at all friendly for amateurs on days like these, so just sit back on the beach and enjoy the show!