Out of Office Reply: The Eddie Opening Ceremony

Out of Office Reply is Associate Editor Taylor Paul’s column on surf travel, big waves, and other manly bits

(Video courtesy of Pete Hodgson)

Out of Office Reply

"Brothers don't shake hands. Brothers gotta hug." --Tommy Boy

Everyone's hugging at the opening ceremony of the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. It doesn't surprise me; gatherings among big-wave surfers are conducive to embracing. These guys are brothers. Something about entering into life and death situations with a person welds tight bonds. Why do you think Grandpa has all those "war buddies?"

No war today, though, All peace. The brotherhood of big-wave surfers has converged on a tranquil Waimea Bay, and they carry on like it's a family reunion. Laughter. Tears. And beer out of plastic cups.

Neither the crowd nor competitors are fazed by the sporadic showers --we're in Hawaii, even the rain is pleasant. North Shore legend Mark Cunningham announces the competitors, who sit next to their weapon of choice (except Ian Walsh, who only has a shortboard. When Peter Mel teases him about it Ian doesn't miss a beat: "Gotta get under that ledge, Pete"). Young girls deliver leis and plaques and cheek-kisses. The day's most emotional moment comes when Andy Irons and Marvin Foster are remembered alongside Eddie during the Aikau family blessing.

Just one of those special days, full of Aloha and hugs. I even see a 300 lb. Hawaiian guy, with a shaved head and a torso-sized neck, eating a lollipop.