Saturday, January 13, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 13, 2001

Highest surf of season hits North Shore

Australian rides wild surf to Aikau victory

See a video clip of Eddie Aikau contest winner Ross Clarke-Jones (in light green shirt), followed by Marvin Foster. Clips are available in big (2.3 Mb) and small (827 kb) version. QuickTime plug-in is required.

Advertiser Staff

The waves were big, and so were the expectations.

With reports that surf would reach 20 feet yesterday, tourists and locals alike flocked to Waimea Bay in hopes of seeing some of the North Shore’s epic waves and maybe even the hallowed surf meet known as "the Eddie."

They weren’t disappointed.

The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, named for the local icon, is often talked about but rarely seen. It’s held only when waves top 20 feet and conditions are right. Yesterday was just the fourth time the event has been completed since 1987. It got under way yesterday as viewers were still making their way to the best viewing spots by car, on bicycles and on foot.

Spectacular shorebreaks thundered ashore in a roil of whitewater, sending a mist toward the officials’ viewing stand and occasionally sending those on the beach scrambling for higher ground.

Offshore, the waves seemed to rise almost out of nowhere, and contestants would plunge down the steep face to the oohs and aahs of the crowd.

Several surfers suffered minor injuries at the meet. But city Ocean Safety Capt. Bodo Van Der Leeden said none of the injuries required hospital treatment.

Van Der Leeden said there were no other reports of serious injuries along the North Shore yesterday despite surf ranging from 20 to 25 feet. The surf forced city lifeguards to close the area from Alii Beach to Sunset Beach.

For the most part, Van Der Leeden said, the public heeded the warnings of the lifeguards.

"With the strict preventative measures, we didn’t really have any serious rescues. The lifeguards worked really hard at it," Van Der Leeden said. "When the surf is this spectacularly large, it’s obvious that people shouldn’t be going in."

The large surf and Aikau meet did draw hundreds to the North Shore, creating the usual traffic mess. Van Der Leeden said cars were lined up in both directions heading to Waimea Bay.

'Highest surf this season'

The high surf was generated by a strong storm northwest of the Hawaiian Islands, said National Weather Service meteorologist Norman Hui. He said the surf was expected to slowly decrease over the weekend.

"I believe this is the highest surf this season," Hui said. "Looking at the forecast chart, we might see a few more episodes, but not as high. So this might be the highest (surf) for the season."

Although the surf is expected to drop over the weekend, Van Der Leeden asked beachgoers to remain cautious.

"The surfers can kind of look out for themselves," he said. "It’s really the unsuspecting family and beachgoers that just don’t realize how dangerous it really is and try to go for that little wade or that little dip or that photo close to the water’s edge. That’s where the tragedies usually come from."

Oahu Civil Defense spokesman Paul Takamiya said there were no reports of property damage caused by the high surf yesterday. He did say that water crossed Kamehameha Highway yesterday morning at Laniakea and Ehukai on the North Shore, but that no roads were closed.

About a dozen Civil Defense volunteers were activated on the North Shore to keep an eye on the surf and also to assist with traffic. Takamiya said the volunteers would remain on duty throughout the night.

The surf along the west-facing shores was in the 10- to 12-foot range with an occasional 15-footer. Water did cross Farrington Highway early yesterday, but caused no damage.

An Ocean Safety official in Makaha said lifeguards were busy plucking people out of the water, but there were no reports of injuries.

The surf was forecast to remain in the 10- to 15-foot range last night and slowly decrease to about 6 to 10 feet today, Hui said.

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