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By David Williams, CNN

Surfers ride a wave before the Eddie Aikau Big-Wave Invitational in 2009, the last time the contest was held.

Story highlights

  • Quiksilver Eddie Aikau memorial event held for first time since 2009
  • Event honors legendary Hawaiian surfer, who died in 1978
  • Competition only held when swells top 20 feet high

The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau event is only held when waves in Waimea Bay top 20 feet, which hasn't happened since 2009. Waimea only gets huge swells in the winter, so organizers block out a three-month window from December to February and hope for a Pacific storm.

    They got their wish this year -- with just days to spare.

    Organizers had hoped to run the event earlier this month, but had to cancel when the surf was lower than expected.

    Only 28 of the world's best big-wave surfers were invited to compete, including American Greg Long, who won the competition in 2009. 

    Aikau was a legendary big-wave surfer and the first official lifeguard on Oahu's North Shore. He was lost at sea in 1978, after volunteering to go for help when a canoe trip seeking to recreate an ancient Polynesian migration hit bad weather.

    The memorial competition was held for the first time in 1984 and Aikau's younger brother Clyde won the second time it was held, in 1986-87.

    Clyde Aikau thanked the crowd before the competition and was thrilled with the surf conditions.

    "Today has to be one of the best days I've seen in 40 years," he said.

    The 66-year-old paddled out later in the day to compete in his final Eddie before retiringThe huge waves and fickle nature of the competition have made it a popular event with surfers and locals. Some fans camped out on the beach or slept in their cars to get a good spot, and the roads were crowded in the predawn hours.

    If you're not able to make it to Waimea Bay, you can watch the competition on the World Surf League website.

    By David Williams, CNN

    Surfers ride a wave before the Eddie Aikau Big-Wave Invitational in 2009, the last time the contest was held.

    Story highlights

    • Quiksilver Eddie Aikau memorial event held for first time since 2009
    • Event honors legendary Hawaiian surfer, who died in 1978
    • Competition only held when swells top 20 feet high

    The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau event is only held when waves in Waimea Bay top 20 feet, which hasn't happened since 2009. Waimea only gets huge swells in the winter, so organizers block out a three-month window from December to February and hope for a Pacific storm.

      They got their wish this year -- with just days to spare.

      Organizers had hoped to run the event earlier this month, but had to cancel when the surf was lower than expected.

      Only 28 of the world's best big-wave surfers were invited to compete, including American Greg Long, who won the competition in 2009. 

      Aikau was a legendary big-wave surfer and the first official lifeguard on Oahu's North Shore. He was lost at sea in 1978, after volunteering to go for help when a canoe trip seeking to recreate an ancient Polynesian migration hit bad weather.

      The memorial competition was held for the first time in 1984 and Aikau's younger brother Clyde won the second time it was held, in 1986-87.

      Clyde Aikau thanked the crowd before the competition and was thrilled with the surf conditions.

      "Today has to be one of the best days I've seen in 40 years," he said.

      The 66-year-old paddled out later in the day to compete in his final Eddie before retiringThe huge waves and fickle nature of the competition have made it a popular event with surfers and locals. Some fans camped out on the beach or slept in their cars to get a good spot, and the roads were crowded in the predawn hours.

      If you're not able to make it to Waimea Bay, you can watch the competition on the World Surf League website.

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