NORTH SHORE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Eddie Aikau big-wave surf contest was called off Wednesday, after an expected swell didn't come in.
The announcement Wednesday morning came after thousands of spectators had already flocked to Waimea Bay -- some sleeping their overnight -- to catch the most anticipated surf contest on Oahu. Well before sunrise, traffic along the North Shore had slowed to a crawl.
Organizers said a storm system that was to generate the 40-foot surf required for the event took an unexpected turn, and buoy readings early Wednesday showed the expected monster waves wouldn't materialize.
"It was a hard one to start with, but it's the right decision," said Glen Moncata, Quicksilver's contest director. "We need a minimum of six hours. It would be great to have eight hours of 20 foot surf -- that's 40 foot faces. We won't compromise on the size of the waves or the conditions. It will only run when it's an Eddie day."
There was hope the Eddie could happen Wednesday afternoon when the swell did finally arrive -- and there was also talk of holding it off until Thursday, but event organizers decided it would not happen at all this week.
"Nowadays, we've got so much data that comes through that we're always like, 'Should we go? Should we go?' And this proves it right here. We thought everything was perfect. Yesterday afternoon at this time we had every forecaster saying that everything is lining up this is going to be the one. Go for it. But basically what happened is this thing had hurricane force winds and it just sucked all the energy out of it and blew it up above us," Moncata said.
Surf at Waimea hasn't been high enough or consistent enough for the contest since December 2009. The surf contest was founded in 1984, and has only been held nine times since then.
Peter Mel, a former Eddie contender, said getting your hopes up only to find out the swell didn't materialize is "shattering."
"As an athlete I don't get to surf this event every year because it doesn't happen every year and of course, this is the reason why -- because Mother Nature does her work and the Bay calls the day."
The cancellation was clearly a major disappointment for the 28 men invited to compete in one of most prestigious surfing contests in the world.
"When it gets called off and when I see that the energy in the ocean's not going to come -- yeah, it leaves a big hollow feeling, you know? You kind of go, damn," said Tom Carroll, an Eddie invitee.
Eddie invitee Makua Rothman said, "That's one of the things about surfing you can't just say guarantee at 5 o'clock it's going to start. Surfing is a little special, you know? It has its own mind and it's Mother Nature we're working with. It's just been so long and we're all so happy to surf and this is like the Super Bowl of surfing."
But leave it to surfers and event organizers to be hopeful despite this morning's turn of events. They're already tracking a swell that could develop into an Eddie day sometime next week.
"It's still not over. The Eddie can still run in the next two weeks and let's hope we get that swell and that the Bay will call the day," said Jamie Mitchell, who had planned to surf the Eddie on Wednesday then hop on a red-eye to California to make it to Half Moon Bay for the Titans of Maverick's big wave contest that's scheduled for Friday.
Organizers for the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau contest announced Monday that the event was a "go," and preparations kicked into high gear Tuesday, with the city putting North Shore road work on hold, adjusting city bus schedules to accommodate more riders, and pledging to ticket and tow illegally parked cars along Kamehameha Highway.
The holding period for the contest ends Feb. 29, so officials say there's still a chance the Eddie could be held this season.