'It's amazing'


POSTED: Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Monster waves drove several people to Red Cross shelters and drew thousands of onlookers to Oahu's North Shore, creating bumper-to-bumper traffic between Haleiwa and Waimea Bay, where many hoped to see a premier surfing event.

The waves were big enough, with 25- to 30-foot faces, but the blustery conditions were less than ideal, leading organizers to postpone the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave competition.

Organizers will assess wave conditions this morning to determine whether they will proceed with the invitational event, said Caitlin Rawling, a Quiksilver official.

The last Eddie Aikau meet occurred in 2004 and was won by Bruce Irons of Kauai.

The surf meet is named in honor of a former big-wave rider and lifeguard who died in 1978 at age 31 while trying to paddle for help from the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule'a, which had capsized in the Molokai Channel. The event is held only when wave heights exceed 20 feet.

Yesterday's postponement did not appear to deter thousands of people along Kamehameha Highway and the beach at Waimea Bay from watching the big waves, some with 40-foot faces, according to the city Department of Emergency Services.

“;It's amazing,”; said David Ingram, a California resident who was celebrating his seventh wedding anniversary with his wife, Kate. “;I've never seen waves like this before. We're just excited to look at this.”;

Dave Funk, a Wisconsin resident, said he drove from Waikiki to Waimea Bay to view the waves and was not disappointed.

“;We have waves on Lake Michigan, but not like this,”; Funk said.

Oahu lifeguards were “;extremely busy,”; according to the Emergency Services Department, conducting nearly 2,500 preventive actions, numerous assists and four rescues. One surfer was injured at about 9:34 a.m. at Waimea Bay Beach Park and taken in serious condition to a hospital, according to Emergency Medical Services spokesman Bryan Cheplic.

Maria Lutz, director of disaster services for the Red Cross, said six people who live on the beach heard about the forecast of 20-foot waves and decided to spend the night at the shelter in Waianae.

One person sought shelter in Haleiwa, she said.

Fisherman Boy Mark spent yesterday with friends at the small boat harbor at Haleiwa, watching his 35-foot vessel sway back and forth on its mooring lines as the current rushed into the channel.

Asked what he does when big waves come to Haleiwa, Mark replied jokingly, “;Cry.”;

“;You tie off and hope for the best,”; he added. “;You can't fight Mother Nature.”;

Haleiwa resident David Bell said he and his brother Doug went shopping Sunday night to prepare for the bad traffic and at least a day of staying at home.

;[Preview]    Beachgoers react to huge North Shore swell

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“;We're kind of trapped,”; Bell said. “;We went to Foodland, stocking up like a hurricane was about to hit.”;

Dipak Sarkar, who works on behalf of his Hindu religious group at Waimea Bay, said when the waves are large, more people visit the beach and buy T-shirts.

“;It is a good day,”; he said.

Craig Fitzgerald, owner of Blue Water Shrimp lunch wagon, said business probably doubled yesterday because of the big waves.

“;It's a lot better,”; he said. “;We've already had customers come from Waikiki.”;

A high-surf warning is in effect for the north and west shores of Oahu, Kauai, Niihau, Molokai and Maui and the west and northeast shores of the Big Island until 6 p.m. tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service. On Maui the county closed Baldwin Beach and Hookipa Beach parks yesterday and today due to a dangerous shore break.