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Thursday, December 16, 2004
Still, it was big enough to stage the rarely held Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational surfing contest at Waimea Bay, only the seventh in 20 years.
Bruce Irons of Kauai placed first, ahead of 2001 winner Ross Clarke-Jones of Australia and Shane Dorian of the Big Island. Irons' brother, the reigning three-time world champion Andy Irons, placed fourth.
Kelly Slater, six-time world champion and one of the 24 elite surfers invited to compete in the contest, described the waves as "giant."
"I don't think I've seen it like this," Slater said.
Soon after the contest ended yesterday, Civil Defense volunteers helped close the beach to the public until further notice.
Waves swept over roadways at Keawaula and Ohikilolo yesterday morning, knocking down trash cans and leaving a blanket of debris such as coral pieces, driftwood and sand. But there was little property damage.
Mokuleia Beach reopened yesterday, while camping and picnic areas at Malaekahana State Park are expected to reopen this morning. Park officials will also continue to monitor weather forecasts to determine whether more beach closures will be necessary.
In Haleiwa, waves rolled over roads, and ocean water caused some damage. At the Surf N Sea shop, fans and air conditioners were on full blast to dry out the carpet.
The minor flooding was an inconvenience that Caulford and others were willing to accept. The big waves and the surf competition brought many people to their shops.
"It's pumping in the store right now," Caulford said. "Whenever there is a contest happening, it always brings business." The wet carpet "is a minor setback. In the long run, it's great because it helps us reach our goal."
Waimea Bay lifeguards said they had no rescues, but warned several people who attempted to get into the water during the surf contest.
"It's a northwest swell, low tide. ... It's really making for some nice clean sets," said past Eddie Aikau winner Keone Downing. "We got size and they're really ridable waves. Eddie would go."
Meanwhile, the Na Pali State Wilderness Park, from Hanakapiai to Kalalau, and Polihale State Park on Kauai remain closed as of yesterday. Officials did not receive any reports of damage.
"It didn't get as half as high as predicted. The highest reached 20 to 25 feet," said Clifford Ikea, plans and operations officer for the Civil Defense Agency on Kauai. The Muliwai trail on the Big Island also remains closed to the public until the surf declines.
CORONA DEL MAR, Calif. » Rather than piling into a woodie station wagon on a Pacific Coast Highway hunt for the perfect wave, elite surfers can now spy surf spots from a restored military seaplane and splash down for a wave-riding session.
Australian surfwear giant Billabong, with corporate offices in Orange County, carefully refurbished a 1950s Albatross once used by the Air Force for search-and-rescue operations to promote the Billabong name and find the best waves for surfing professionals.
The twin-engine Grumman HU-16B landed in the sea off Corona del Mar on Monday afternoon and moored in China Cove.
"This has taken a lot of work by a lot of people. It's great to see it here in one of the most beautiful spots in California," said Graham Stapelberg, vice president of Billabong's North American operations.
The plane, dubbed the Billabong Clipper and featuring company logos, has a range of 3,300 miles, a cruising speed of more than 200 mph, a payload capacity of 5 tons and room for 12, including three crew members.
Besides being a promotional tool for the company, the seaplane will be used exclusively to ferry around professional surfers for documentaries and advertising. It will eventually be outfitted with bunks, a galley and a bathroom.
Outside, two Jet Skis will be mounted on wing pods that were once used for drop tanks.
"I've been on a lot of boat trips, but you spend too much time at sea trying to get from one surf spot to another," said champion surfer Andy Irons, of Kauai. "Now we'll be able to check dozens of surf spots from the air. It's the best possible way to go surfing."
The seaplane left old-timers awestruck.
"When you have millions of marketing dollars, this kind of thing becomes reality," Surfer's Journal publisher Steve Pezman said. "It's a little bratty, a little hedonistic and a little wonderful all mixed together."
After Billabong announced its seaplane project, rival Quiksilver acquired the same type of plane and dispatched it on a promotional tour of North America in September.
"We can't worry about other people. Everyone to their own devices," Stapelberg said. "We are going to do what we want to do on a global basis."