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The Eddie: Clyde Aikau Interview


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Clyde Aikau, younger brother of Eddie Aikau, first rode Waimea Bay in 1969. Today, at 66 years of age, he remains one of the most psyched big wave riders on the planet. His voice is excited and as energized as a frothing teenager as he talks about his preparations. If the Bay calls the day, expect him to be ready to lead the charge of those invited to ride in his brother’s name. We caught up with him between training sessions and surfs at the Bay.

Q: How is the anticipation for you with all the swells we’ve been having?

Clyde: There’s been a lot of anticipation with the El Niño weather pattern. It has been very stressful trying to keep track of the different swells that are coming in... that goes for everybody involved. Trying to maintain your conditioning and right frame of mind is the biggest challenge. For all the guys invited, it is a given that they have proven their big wave riding.

Q: And what about your preparation, at 66 years of age?

Clyde: I’m trying to up my physical conditioning - even at this late period. For me it’s more to psych my mind up to know that I can handle it. I’m in pretty good condition and I know I can hold my breath for a long time. I’m into running 3 miles a day, surfing, paddling, eating right, then you don’t feel that tiredness. I’m ready before the day. I know it’s kinda crazy… everybody comes up to me in the lineup - even the big dogs - and tell me they’re inspired. That jacks me up! My ankles are good, my knees are good, my hips and shoulders, all good. I guess this Hawaiian is set to go! For me, the shore break is the most challenging thing. The shore break and I have had a battle going for 40 years and I’ve always lost. But once I get to the lineup, it’s all rock and roll and I’m catching Eddie waves. That’s the truth.

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Q: Do you wear the safety vest?

Clyde: I do wear a vest now. Everybody does. I think it’s a good idea.

Q: How has long range surf forecasting changed the sport of big wave riding? Back when Eddie had that famous ride - November 19, 1967 - there was no forecasting.

Clyde: Knowing that the swells are coming is more scary! (laughs) Not knowing, and it’s popping and you get a call: 'Waimea’s 20-25 feet'.. Shoots brah! Coming! But now with Instagram, social media, the forecasts, Guy Hagi on the news and the whole freakin' ocean is red! I’m thinking, “sheesh brah, I should have run six miles, not three!” (laughs) That’s the words of the last old dog: Uncle Clyde, psyching up to ride Waimea in a couple days!

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Q: We talk about the Eddie being different to other big wave events because it’s not so much about the win as it is about the celebration, the heritage and the lineage of the brotherhood of big wave riding. How would you describe it?

Clyde: I woke up at 3am this morning, jacked from my surfing yesterday. In my garage I have every (Quiksilver Eddie Aikau) poster from over the years. I started going through each poster. Just 20, 30 minutes by yourself going through those posters... it’s chicken skin man, I tell you. You realize why this event is so special. When you see (Eddie) surfing on a wave, as a big wave rider you’re so proud to be invited. You’re so proud man. But you need to really look at him, how he rides this wave. He’s so committed. He’s not looking for a camera. It gets back to the passion. As an invitee, me, uncle Clyde, looking at each of those photos of Eddie totally committed from his toes to his head to his inner soul - totally committed to each wave. That’s what it’s about. Not a XXL list, or a sponsorship, or a photo. Just pure passion. That’s what it’s about.

Q: What does a day at the Bay, when it goes, mean to the Aikau family?

Clyde: It’s very humbling, but more exciting. The shore break is gigantic, guys are taking off, getting pitted, making rides. For the family, they’re focused on me. Hoping and praying. Before I go out I give a little aloha to the family. Real simple.

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Tagged in The Eddie