The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau features 28 of the world's most legendary big wave surfers, and each of Round One heats is stacked. Here's a little breakdown of Heat 2, which contains two World Champions, one Big Wave World Champion, plus four legendary Hawaiians.
Let's just begin with 11-time World Champion and former event winner Kelly Slater. Slater claimed victory at Waimea Bay in 2002 having competed in three times previously, and yes, he's the most successful surfer of all time. The 43-year old just ended his two year winless streak at the Volcom Pipe Pro in what many are calling the best Pipeline in years. Slater will no doubt be motivated to perform while surfing in front of his longtime friend and big-wave legend Brock Little, who's suffering from stage four cancer.
Slater will be joined by fellow World Champ Tom Carroll. the 54-year-old from Australia has been joining Ross Clarke-Jones chasing storms around the globe in recent years. In December of 2014, the former World Champion returned to the lineup at Pipeline to compete (and win) in the Heritage Series event. He's been a North Shore force since the early 1980s, and is always a threat at Waimea.
Adding to the elite status of the heat is Big Wave World Champion Grant Baker. The South African has won numerous big wave competitions around the globe, but snatched the Big Wave Title back in 2014. Baker has been the winner of multiple Big Wave Awards and was nominated for the Surfline Performance of the Year Category last year.
Kauai's Reef McIntosh is highly regarded on the North Shore as a standout at Pipeline. In 2014, he won the Men's Pipe Invitational and was awarded a spot into the Billabong Pipe Masters. He lost to Kelly Slater in Round 2. He has also faced Slater in a previous event at Waimea Bay. The two will battle again in Heat 2 on Wednesday.
Along with McIntosh, North Shore local and big wave surfer Dave Wassel will represent the island state in the second heat of Round 1. Wassel has been a longtime staple among the Hawaiian big wave surfing community and recently competed in the Pe'ahi Challenge. When he's not surfing, Wassel helps keep beachgoers safe as a lifeguard on the North Shore. He knows the ins and outs of Waimea better than most.
There are few surfers who are brave enough to charge the shorebreak at Waimea Bay and even fewer who frequently do it on a foam top surfboard, but Jamie O'Brien is one such rare bread. O'Brien who's house overlooks Pipeline, recently finished runner-up to Kelly Slater at the Volcom Pipe Pro and will have his chance at revenge in his first round heat.
This winter has been kind to Hawaii and most of the Pacific, but of all the great big wave performances this season, Aaron Gold's has to rank among to the top. Gold earned much acclaim for an enormous wave he paddled into at Jaws in early January. Needless to say, Gold won't have a problem with the height of the faces at Waimea Bay on Wednesday.