Looking Swell

If it were your call, anyone braving the water in surf like today’s would get super high marks:

Had the cojones to paddle out in monster triple-overhead waves:
10 points

Any ride, no matter how short, down the face of a cresting barrel:
11 points

Survived wipe-out in fierce whitewater:
At least 15 points

But the real judges, the ones who decide who wins the big surf contests, have a different scorecard. We asked pro surfer and Eddie Aikau invitee Jamie O’Brien to give us the 411 on how to watch the 2009 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational like a pro.

1. First, the deal on who competes: To surf in the Eddie Aikau, you have to be invited. There are only 28 seats available. Some alternates have waited years to take their place as an invitee, and can only move up if an invitee retires, gets hurt, or can’t make the contest.

2. For spectators, it’s all about location, location, location – if you can get to the beach, the best spots are high enough above the sea level to offer a clear view of every move from the top of the wave (the lip) to the end of the ride.

3. There is a five-wave rule; only five waves can be caught within one heat, which can last between 45 minutes and an hour. If a surfer wipes out, the wave isn’t scored.

4. What sets one ride apart from another? Look for creativity — from how late the surfer takes off and what moves he makes while on the wave. If the surfer gets a barrel, it’s one of the highest scores possible because of the huge risk and danger.

And even if you can't make it up north today, you can still surf the net or your couch and watch the event live.

That should tide you over.


The 2009 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational Surf Contest happens today, at Waimea Bay on the North Shore. All the info on the contest is here.