Big Wave Surfing at Waimea

The monster waves found at Waimea Bay on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu have made it a popular destination for big wave surfers.

It's challenging, it's unforgiving, and it's incredible to watch.

If you're looking to tackle some of the biggest waves that Hawaii has to offer, it's time to head for Waimea Bay.

Where is Waimea?

Waimea is located on the north shore of O'ahu. The name means "reddish water" in Hawaiian and it has a history that dates back to the James Cook expedition, as his ship, the HMS Resolution, is said to have docked here two weeks after Cook was killed.

During the summer, the waves at Waimea are very calm, but in the winter months the wind kicks up, the waves can climb as high as 40 feet, and it becomes a popular destination, one that is just as challenging as the likes of Mavericks in Northern California.

History of Big Wave Surfing at Waimea

The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, formerly known as the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational, is held at Waimea every year, but only if the conditions are right.

The waves must reach a consistent height of 20-feet before the tournament can be staged, and this requirement means that its staging is very sporadic and unpredictable.

In fact, at the time of writing, it has been nearly 5 years since the tournament was last staged.

The tournament was held for the first time in 1984 and was staged at Sunset Beach, before later moving to Waimea Bay.

As the name suggests, the tournament was named in memory of Eddie Aikau, a Hawaiian surfer who was also the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay.

Eddie is said to have saved over 500 lives during his career.

Eddie was lost at sea in 1978. His disappearance triggered one of the largest air-sea searches in Hawaiian history, but his body was never found, and he was declared dead at the age of 31.

Contests, Waves, and Notable Surfers

The insistence that the waves must reach a consistent height of 20 feet has prevented Waimea Bay's biggest event from running over the last few years.

The waves are measured from the beginning of December to the end of February every year and if they meet this requirement, the event goes ahead.

At this point, the best big wave surfers from around the world will be invited.

In 2019/20, that list included the likes of Kelly Slater, Grant Baker, Aaron Gold, Kai Lenny, and countless others.

The contest is streamed live online and during the last staging, it attracted over 1.2 million viewers from over 200 countries and territories.

Interesting Tidbits

Waimea Bay is mentioned in the Beach Boys song "Surfin' USA".

It's one of the locations featured in the second chorus.

It was also mentioned in the Ride the Wild Surf song, and these two pieces of pop music history, which occurred within a year of one another, helped to make Waimea Bay famous during the ‘60s.

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