The invitees gathered for the Eddie account for some of the best wave-riders on Earth. Photo: Glaser

The world's most esteemed watermen gathered along the shore of Waimea Bay today to participate in the 2012 Eddie Aikau opening ceremony. As is tradition, the Aikau family, along with the invitees and alternates, paid homage to the late Eddie Aikau and honored his legacy in today's ceremony. Following a blessing from a traditional Hawaiian priest, the invitees made the ceremonial paddle out to the lineup at Waimea where they formed a circle, commemorating Eddie's spirit, and ushered the event into a new year.

“It’s a tremendous honor to win the Eddie Aikau. But I think what is even more monumental is that the feeling of being together, to enter the water, to ride the biggest waves in the world, and to know that if something goes wrong, your partner in the heat is going to be there to help you out, because that’s what Eddie was all about," said Eddie's brother, Clyde Aikau. "He gave his life to save others, gave his life to save thousands of people at Waimea Bay, helped people he never knew. So carrying that throughout the event goes a long, long way.”

One of the most prestigious achievements in big-wave surfing, to be invited to compete at the event is a highly coveted chevron on the sleeve of any waterman.

"Being invited to the Eddie means everything for me,” says Hawaii’s Kohl Christensen. “It's a lifetime accomplishment from your peers and to be recognized for your achievements and to compete at the event is just such an honor."

For the event to run, conditions at Waimea must exceed 20 feet. The holding period for the event officially begins on December 1 and will run until February 28, 2013.

Brothers Greg and Rusty Long. Photo: Glaser

Acclaimed cinematographer Mike Prickett, who was paralyzed in a diving accident earlier this year, now on the road to recovery. Photo: Glaser

The prestigious Eddie competitor trophies. Photo: Glaser

Makua Rothman, Kelly Slater, and Bruce Irons. A solid collection of Eddie contenders. Photo: Glaser

The final part of the ceremony, the paddle-out amid the currently calm Waimea Bay. Photo: Glaser

Shark's-eye view. Photo: Glaser

The elite 28 Eddie invitees, along with members of the Aikau family. Photo: Glaser