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Clyde Aikau and the State of the Eddie – A Feature Interview


Clyde AikaiWe recently caught up with Clyde Aikau, Waimea Bay pioneer, and were stoked to do so. Here's our quick Q&A where we ask Clude about the state of the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational Clyde, it's been twenty–two years since the 1986 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, which you won. What are your memories from that first event?

Clyde Aikau: It was so long ago but the thoughts I have and had… the spirituality of the event at that specific moment, for me to be in the water and to have the out of body experience I had with the turtles that appeared to me. Those turtles to me were a symbol of Eddie and Jose Angel. It's happened twice that day. Everyone was in the regular lineup when these two turtles appeared and I followed them out beyond everyone else and deeper than everyone else. Then this huge wave came and I jumped on it. It happened twice in that heat. After half a century being in and around the water, how often do you go for a surf, and what kind of board do you surf when you're out there?

Clyde Aikau: My son, Ha'a, who's a hotshot 15 year-old surfer now, has motivated me for the past 2 or 3 years to really rock and roll on the North Shore. Prior to that I was mostly in Waikiki trying to work and feed the family. Recently I've been very active. This year I caught every big swell that came through and went tow surfing at Phantoms. Ha'a is wanting to ride bigger waves so I'm going with him and getting the feel. He even goes out to Pipe, watching everyone, being right there where the action is. We caught the first big Sunset this winter and we surf every weekend. I have a 9'6″ for medium to large Sunset, for Waimea I have a 10'6, and an 11'0″ real serious board for 25-30 feet Hawaiian standard waves. I also like to longboard with Ha'a at some of the fun spots, but that's more of exercise or workout when it's small.

clyde Do you still surf the Bay when it breaks?

Clyde Aikau: We caught every swell that hit this year… maybe missed one that hit at 4pm. I was stuck in traffic in town. Extreme traffic surfing. Who is the future of the Aikau surfing clan? Any future pro surfing offspring? Are they charging the Bay?

Clyde Aikau: Ha'a. No doubt. He's charging the Bay now. Last year he was on the side, way on the end of Pipe and the extreme end of the Bay. This year he's in the mix. not taking the sets, but decent sized waves for a 15 year-old. Definitely. Ha'a's rockin'. I wish there were more Aikau's out there! This question is mostly for surfers that are surfing small little waves – (call it 7 feet or less!) What does it feel like to paddle into one of those waves at the Bay?

Clyde Aikau: When you're riding big waves, the fear factor is not when you're paddling in, it's getting caught (on the way out). That's the anxiety that nobody wants to be in. To try and avoid that is the main thing. Dropping into a wave is OK, you've got your adrenaline running, you want to get on it. It's like paddling for a moving mountain. When you're way up there, the head gets really light. It's a lot of adrenaline and no matter how big the wave, you don't even know because you're not looking behind you. It's like driving a car 150mh – speed, rush, excitement. It's still a huge thrill factor. We've heard all sorts of descriptions for these giant waves. Monsters. All sorts of different kinds of animals. Freight trains. Cement slabs. What do you call them, other than scary, big waves?

Clyde Aikau: I like to call it Monsters, but not in a horror way. Kind of like in a huge, massive type of way. Like, “Oh look at that monster wave” – it's got some size, it's got some hair on it. Like surfing Sunset on those 15-18 foot days when there's some north on it, some 20 mile wind blowing…. it's a lot of power. It's more of a size/power type of energy. What does it feel like to take a set on the head at the Bay?

Clyde Aikau: This goes back a few years ago. The waves jumped to 30 feet plus all of a sudden. I took off on the first or second wave, I wiped out and a giant 30 foot wave pulled in and you're right in the pit. You're in the juice of it all and there's no way out and you're looking at this 60 foot face coming and you say to yourself, thank god I'm in shape, thank god I did all that training and running – you're really confident in taking it on the head. It's sort of a trip like that BJ Penn fight on the weekend when they're ready to go…. where you say, “come on, let's rock and roll!”. Same thing when I get one on the head. You're confident in your training, in yourself, but mainly you're keeping yourself calm because you need to take your breaths and, you know, it's “dive for da bottom braddah. Dive for da bottom!” Unlike every other surfing event, the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau only runs based on the strict rules. In the 1990s, that meant the contest ran once in 1990, and again only in 1999. That's dedication. Is there any thought to changing the rules to allow for more surfing? What would Eddie say?

Clyde Aikau: Eddie's into the massive waves, you know. You gotta go with that. You just gotta hang in there. I think the format should continue. A few years back I was saying maybe we should have it at 18 feet on shorter boards, but now I think the format should stay as it is. It's been so long. If you're having this contest in the spirit of Eddie, then massive Waimea is what he's all about. Anything less and you should probably change the name. I definitely am 101% behind it as it is right now. Aloha!

Editor's Note: Many thanks to Clyde for his time. Lead Photo Credit: Quiksilver/Zaz. Additional Photos: Joli.


  1. johnny boy wilder says:

    Clyde Aikau is a living legend in big wave surf. He has great heart and I am sure Ha’a has that heart too! I have known the great Clyde over thirty years and believe me, he knows the big wave surfing spots like nobody else.He is a waterman like Eddie, Jose, Butch and the others. Clyde is surfing. God bless the Aikau’s.

  2. Lynne Holmes says:

    Clyde you’ve still got it, in more ways than one. Loooved watching you paddle into Waimea during this last contest.could pick those Aikau feet anywhere. Eddie rules tho. Hah!

  3. anoai ke ALOHA ,a where you CLYDE ? IS TWEETY FROM BIARRITZ.

  4. Johnny Boy Wilder says:

    One of the great honors of my little life wa meeting Clyde and working for him tiwice at C and K Beachboy service. Also, getting to surf with him at Big Sunset and Kaiser bowl. Clyde is the real deal and can handle the surf. Ask him where he wants to surf and he will say anywhere. I am proud of Clyde Aikau.

  5. Curtis Lambert says:

    I first met Clyde in 1977 his girlfriend and my girlfriend we’re good friends, I partied with Clyde a few times , I was kinda shy so we didn’t talk much, I think we went out to Hawaii Kai for a party I drove and I could tell Clyde was bored…So I said lets Hele on and we left…Being a coast haole the Aikau family showed me how to fit in with locals…His sister Myra taught my WSI class, and I will never forget I had to save her as our final test, Myra was like a bull in the water I thought I was gonna drown that sista knows how to swim and is one special lady I will never forget, I never thanked her but when I return to the Islands my top priority will be to thank the Aikau family for helping me understand Hawaiian culture they have given a lot to Hawaii…I had dinner in the cemetery for our WSI graduation and Eddie was there with this was 2 months before he left on the voyage…Mom and Pops Aikau we’re great people that’s why their children turned out so well…Good to know there is another Aikau out in the lineup charging waves the legacy will continue that gives me chicken skin!!

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