Bruce Irons Wins Quiksilver Eddie Aikau on Another Big Wednesday

Picture, if you will, all the old footage of Waimea Bay you’ve seen in your years as a surfer. Huge boards. Huge waves. Four guys making the simultaneous death drop, gunning madly for the shoulder and sliding over into burgerland. It’s a classic, defining big-wave image, but compared to what we’ve seen at Teahupo’o and Jaws in recent years, well, let’s just say we’ve been a little desensitized.

Now picture this: after two years of hibernation, the Quiksilver Eddie Aikau Invitational is a GO. Maybe not quite as big as the all-time ‘{{{90}}} conditions, but a close second for sure. Big. Bombing. And coincidentally, Wednesday. Bruce Irons, first year invited, second time ever surfing the break, drops into a solid set wave, and does the classic, crouching bomb-drop, getting swallowed by the avalanche and somehow re-emerging to race all the way to the middle of the bay, where, instead of mushing out, the wave stands up again. Bruce cuts back, hacks a nice gouge into the face on his 9-footer, then works the fading section into the shorepound. Now you’ve seen Waimea shorepound before. Ridiculous stuff. Peter Mel — no stranger to heavy conditions — came pouring through it earlier in the day, as if on a dare, and barely escaped the thunderous axe only to get bashed up onto the beach and emerge crawling from the foam looking like he had a concussion. So Bruce, going left now, drives down into this huge Waimea shack, standing straight up, reaching for the roof all casual/crazy and just takes it on the head. Ka-boom. The beach goes insane. A huge wave, with ballsiest finish imaginable. All five judges score him 20 out of 20. A perfect {{{100}}}.

Bruce just went for it today, and that’s what The Eddie is all about.

Now here’s how the Eddie works (since it’s utterly unlike other contests). 24 surfers, invite only. Six men per heat, two heats each. You take four waves each heat, and keep the best four scores from the total of eight waves to combine for your total four-wave score. The event is 20 years running, and real legend-riddled stuff. It only runs if it’s big enough, and only if big-wave guru George Downing says so. The invite list is pure big-wave respect: guys like Kelly Slater and the Irons brothers surfing alongside Titus Kinimaka, the Keaulanas and the Aikaus. If you’re invited, you better not miss it — but just in case you do, the alternate list is heavy as hell too.

This year’s event was well anticipated. While the local news was screaming about 50 ft. sets and preparing the North Shore for emergency evacuation, contestants were waxing up their favorite big-wave guns. Before dawn, the lineup was packed and pumping. The roads were clogged and amping. Everyone was there. Everyone was stoked. And the surf went off all day long. “It doesn’t get much better than this,” said former event winner and this year’s runner-up Ross Clarke-Jones. “It’s not really a contest at all, is it? Everyone’s got a smile on their face out there.”

Sharing heavy drops, carving around each other, high fiving on the face; the Eddie is a different breed of competition. Even on the beach, it was full-on surfworld family style. No bitching. No complaining. A perfect sun-shiney big-wave day, and 20-something of the world’s best putting on a great show in the water.

Not to imply that it wasn’t heavy out there. Local Mark Healey had his board broken in the morning warm-up, and when he paddled out in his heat, a gnarly wipeout tore his jersey right in half. Darryl “Flea” Virotsko took a dramatic, board-breaker, lip launch in his first heat and, in the second, got axed pulling into a barrel, resulting in an injured knee and a busted lip. “Eddie punched me out,” he said after being brought to the beach by the water patrol.

Then there was Shane Dorian’s in-the-tube drop with Titus Kinimaka caught in the snow-storm somewhere behind him. And Pancho Sullivan muscling his way out of a crushing closeout avalanche. And Andy Irons – also surfing the break for just his second time – making a 99-point bomb in his first heat. “So psyched!” said Andy, looking as stoked as you’ve ever seen him. “I got some f—king big ones out there.”

Speaking of big ones, local heavy Johnny Boy Gomes claimed his 12-foot rhino chaser felt like a toothpick out there, describing the drops as “humbling experiences.” 50 year-old Titus Kinimaka took his full quota of screamers. And newcomer Mark Healey took his lickings and kept on ticking.

So many epic rides today. Shane Dorian and Peter Mel were awesome, pushing Waimea to new levels. Defending event champ Kelly Slater was, well, Slater. And current world champ Andy, with his early high scores, was leading the charge.

Ross Clarke Jones was the point leader right up to the very end. But then again, Bruce was trailing by only one point before he even surfed his second heat, meaning all he had to do to win was outscore just one of his previous waves by 2-points to win the event. With slow posting from the judges, it was unclear whether he’d done it until a last minute set came through and Brucey made the huge drop, tucked under a heaving top-section for a short cover-up and washed away everyone’s doubts.

“Oh man,” said Bruce afterwards. “Those were definitely the biggest waves of my life. So heavy. I’m just so happy. When I pulled in on that shorepound, it was all for Michael Ho. He did it first, and he was my inspiration.”

Bruce went. Eddie went. And it all went off.

Final Results:
1. Bruce Irons – US$ 55,000
2. Ross Clarke-Jones – US$ 10,000
3. Shane Dorian – US$ 5,000
4. Andy Irons – US$ 3,000
5. Peter Mel – US$ 2,000
6. Kelly Slater – US$ 1,000