Over the next decade, Waimea was bodysurfed by a handful – Noah Kalama, Fran Heath, and John Kelly, but North Shore boardriding largely occured at Sunset, Laniakea, and Haleiwa.
Seal Beach lifeguard Harry Schurch was driving around Waimea Bay on a day in 1957 when he noticed what appeared to be rideable waves on the point – nothing life-threatening, somewhere in the 10-15-foot range. He rode a few. Later that day, back from Makaha, Greg Noll, Mike Stang, Mickey Munoz, Del Cannon and Bing Copeland also took it on as the swell rose toward 20 feet. Their session, unlike Schurch's, was captured on film by Bud Brown for what became Waimea's introduction to the rest of the world.
In 1958 Peter Cole, Ricky Grigg and Pat Curren from California added a few more minds to the mix. They focused on taming the beast of a wave that Waimea represented at 20 feet and over.
Eddie Aikau hit the scene in 1966, kicking off a relationship with Waimea that would become legendary – saving countless lives as the Bay's first official lifeguard and surfing for up to eight hours at a time without breaks, riding beautifully.
More than the wave, the rider, or the equipment, it was the camera capturing the images that brought about international awareness and elevated Waimea to what was perceived as a recognition wave.
Television coverage, contests, and the pro surfing movement all started to gel around the time and surfing was becoming a legitimate lifestyle. Surfers who came for a season ended up staying, and pretty soon Waimea had a solid base of big wave chargers: Mike Diffenderfer, Owl Chapman, Reno Abellira, Sam Hawk, Downing, Cole, Grigg, Kimo Hollinger, Buzzy Trent, Jose Angel, Aikau, Kealoha Kaeo and Tiger Espere.
With the 1980s came the redefinition of the way Waimea was surfed. While the takeoff remained the crux of the ride, maneuvers offered a whole new challenge as surfers looked to transpose a new standard of carving turns onto the expansive canvas of Waimea.
In the winter of 1984/'85, the first Eddie Aikau Memorial was held at Sunset Beach. The next winter Quiksilver took this event to a new level, relocating it to Waimea Bay . They invited big wave specialists from around the world, and provided a platform for showcasing the sport's high-end, and performance levels went through the roof.
Along with the North Shore's general surfing population, there was a growing number sharing the lineup at Waimea; Booby Jones, Tommy Nellis, Richard Schmidt, Brock Little, Clyde Aikau, Ken Bradshaw, Roger Erickson, Mark Foo, Doerner, Tony Moniz, Charlie Walker, Aaron Napoleon, Marvin Foster, Mickey Nielson, Bobby Owens and Johnny Boy Gomes.
The 1990s brought changes unimaginable to the surfing world, and Waimea's esteemed rating of big-wave riding's zenith was challenged.
A booming global surf industry, fully-fledged international world tour, and mainstream acceptance of the sport were setting new heights. The birth of everything “extreme” was on the horizon and surfing was at the vanguard. The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau was soon keeping company with its California cousin – the Quiksilver Maverick's Men Who Ride Mountains event.
Greater notoriety ushered in more crowds and surfing's numbers continued to increase. Exposure of locations, along with the accessibility and affordability of travel added more again. In addition, the science of surf-forecasting was enabling surfers to pinpoint swells around the planet and make arrangements to coincide with them. Much of the mystery and exclusivity was gone.
What began as a tactic to outrun the crowd, soon turned into a new frontier in surfing: the tow-in. By the mid-1990s, the big-wave barrier of Waimea's 25-35 feet was completely shattered as guys like Doerner, Laird Hamilton, and Dave Kalama put a spot called “Jaws” on the map with this particular method of using jet skis to get into the wave. They had found a new mountain and a new game developed. It was the first time Waimea's size and intensity had been called into question, but out of respect, very few were willing to voice the opinion out loud.
In terms of big-wave riding in its purest form, tow-in is no match for the sheer skill required of one man to paddle himself into giant waves. If 30 to 35-feet is the limit to self propultion then so be it. Despite the advent of towing in, Waimea's stature was in tact; it proves the ultimate challenge of man versus the sea. With its ancient roots and the energy of its forefathers, Waimea was still deemed to be the soul of big-wave riding.
Today Waimea still has its old-style crew surfing it just for the love; guys like Clarke Abbey, Eric Haas, and Chris Owens. They wouldn't miss a swell for the world and it doesn't matter on what day it might fall. Then when it's “Eddie” time, it will be guys like Slater, Bruce Irons, Keone Downing, Titus kinimaka, Brock Little, Ross WIlliiams, Ross Clarke-Jones, Darryl Virostko, Mark Healey, Paul Paterson, and Peter Mel who find the spotlight.