Page last updated at 06:05 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Hawaii holds rare surfing contest as 12m waves roll in


Surfers take advantage of the huge waves pounding Hawaii

A rare surfing competition has been held in Hawaii as waves of 12m (40ft) pounded Oahu's famous North Shore.

Thousands of people gathered on beaches and cliffs to watch the world's greatest surfers tackle the waves.

It was only the eighth time in 25 years that the Eddie Aikau competition, named in honour of a celebrated Hawaiian surfer and lifeguard, was held.

The contest is only staged in the most extreme surf conditions and last took place in 2004.

'Unbelievably dangerous'

Nine-times world champion Kelly Slater was the strongest starter, but first-time entrant Greg Long, 24, took a narrow lead over his older rival and won with a score of 323 to 313.

Greg Long celebrates on 8 December 2009
It really is about the wave and celebrating the ocean
Greg Long

The victorious Californian - who took home a purse of $55,000 (£34,000) - said it was "a dream come true" to take part in the "biggest event of big waves in the world".

Long said the camaraderie of the contest, known as the Eddie, "encapsulates everything that's great about surfing".

"It really is about the wave and celebrating the ocean. It's what we do: go out there and ride big waves."

A total of 28 surfers were invited to take part in the event at Waimea Bay, chosen by a poll of the surfing community.

Organisers had been watching weather and wave conditions in the seas around the US state and announced early on Tuesday morning local time that the competition would run.


"We were all stoked out there, smiling, laughing and having a good time," said competitor Jamie O'Brien.

"This is like a natural arena out here for this and it's amazing to be a part of it," he told the Honolulu Advertiser.

People travelled from around the world to the US state to watch the event.

Malika Dudley of CBC News told the BBC people were lining cliff tops and had climbed trees to watch the vast waves.

She said it was "unbelievably dangerous" to take part in the event - one surfer, Tom Carroll of Australia, had been injured - but that safety teams were in the water on jet skis in case of accidents.

Eddie Aikau, after whom the contest is named, was a legendary surfer who died in 1978 at the age of 31, after capsizing in a traditional voyaging canoe en route from Hawaii to Tahiti.

Infographic showing how big waves are formed

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