High rollers sweep in and pollute the memory of Eddie

NEWS FROM THE NORTH SHORE

Big Sunday, with its festival of big waves, is meeting the big money. The mixture does not seem to work.

I was supposed to be going to church. But I succumbed to the ancient pagan rituals on the beach. It was Big Sunday at Waimea Bay. The much trumpeted 25-foot swell finally pulled in to North Shore Grand Central.

Unfortunately, it timed its arrival for midnight. By dawn, it was down to a marginal 20. The "Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau" big-wave contest, honouring the legendary surfer and heroic Waimea lifeguard, and which stipulates day-long 20-foot-plus conditions, was put back on hold.

This didn't stop about 40 guys paddling out and a huge crowd of spectators watching them at this Coliseum of surfing, as massive breakers rolled in, reared up, and toppled over in a fury of white water. The air was heady with the optimistic scent of wax, but the beach was littered with broken boards. Two jetskis were fully employed ferrying back in a lot of dreamers. Maybe half of the pack were just there to be able to say, "Yeah, I was there".

Although Waimea retains its mythic status as the holy of holies among North Shore breaks, the Bay was being outgunned by the outer reefs, the cloud-breaks like Phantoms and Revelations, where solid beyond-Eddie-sized waves were breaking all through the afternoon. The Willis Brothers, Michael and Milton, board shapers to the elite big-wave aficionados, were towing- in far from the madding Waimea crowd, beyond Backyards, and getting more barrels than a beer truck.

It was too good to last. Before noon, the big money turned up, in the shape of Team Quiksilver. Suddenly, from being Walden Pond with waves, it was more like a Hollywood film set. Two helicopters, a couple of Zodiac boats, nine state-of-the-art waverunners, and about a dozen cameras, not to mention eight or nine of the best surfers in the world had dropped in to commune with nature.

A lot of the Eddie invitees were there, having flown in from other islands, California and Australia to be here for the big day. But the fact is that the Willis Brothers, North Shore veterans who haven't been given a shot by Quiksilver, were more than matching them, wave for wave. One of the Quiksilver crew, being paid a bundle just to be there, took off on a particularly heavy wave, but pumped for the shoulder, while Milton Willis aimed straight for the most dangerous core of the wave and made it out again.

There was one big name who didn't even come close and didn't go back out after lunch. Local knowledge and experience were pre-eminent. But when the pictures and the video come out, I guarantee it won't look that way: global media expertise will win out.

That episode dramatised what has become the problem with the Quiksilver contest: its selection procedure. This is the only contest of its kind in the world, and merely to be in it, let alone win it, is a massive status symbol. And yet the criteria by which the invitations are handed out remain clouded in secrecy. Just as at Waimea on Sunday, of the 24 full-on contestants and their 24 alternates, maybe only 50 per cent would be beyond dispute. As for the other 50 per cent, it is possible to imagine other names, with a greater claim.

The truth that almost no one in Hawaii dares to speak is that the winners of the only two previous completed contests over the last few years are likewise compromised. The first winner - Clyde Aikau - is the brother of Eddie. The second, Keone Downing, is the son of George, the director of the whole event. While both these surfers may indeed have surfed the most radical waves on the day, the fact that they took part let alone went on to win has aroused suspicion. To put the case at its least sensational, selecting and judging are insufficiently transparent: justice is not being seen to be done.

"The whole thing is a sham" is Milton Willis' more dramatic way of putting it. "The concept is fantastic. I don't question the idealism or the memory of Eddie. But let's take the sheepskin off the wolf here - people are being duped."

Quiksilver sportswear stand to make an immense amount of money out of this event, even though it happens so rarely. The North Shore is quick to criticise what they see as minimum investment, maximum hype.

Tellingly, two of Quiksilver's living legends are flying out to Australia, despite promising lows stacking up all the way to Alaska. One of the sceptics spoke for a large constituency when he said that "Word is they don't want to have any part of the monster swell that's coming."

Big business and big waves don't mix.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Creche Assistant or Nursery Nurse

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Creche Assistant to start asap ...

Nursery Nurse Level 3

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Nursery Nurse Leeds We are now ...

Deputy Education Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager (permanent ...

Science Teacher Urgently required for October start

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York