HONOLULU (CN) - Two giant swells moved through the Hawaiian Islands this past week producing surf that shut down roads and beaches on Oahu's North Shore and set the stage for a spectacular Eddie Aikau Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational.
The swells shut down both lanes of Kamehameha Highway between Haleiwa Town and Turtle Bay Resort to all but emergency vehicles, local traffic and The Bus. The ocean surged across the highway at Rockpile surf spot and threatened to erode the northbound lane of the highway where the road skirts the coast in Punalu'u.
Clean-up crews worked throughout the week removing sand and debris, and a full contingent of police arrived Wednesday to direct traffic for the 25,000 spectators who jammed into Waimea Bay for the surfing contest.
The biggest waves in recent memory made "The Eddie" possible for only the ninth time in the last 30 years. Held in memory of legendary waterman Eddie Aikau , who disappeared at sea after paddling out to aid the capsized Polynesian voyaging vessel Hokule'a in 1978, the contest attracted luminaries like Kelly Slater and big-wave surfers from around the world.
In the end, a local kid claimed victory.
"I was riding my bike down here this-morning in the dark and just the energy of how many people were parked all the way down the street. I've lived here my whole life and I've never seen it like that," 23-year-old John John Florence, a regular on the WSL Championship Tour, said. "Walking down the beach, people just screaming, and the energy was so crazy. I've never been a part of an event like this. It's definitely the highlight of my life for sure."
Florence's last two rides came amid a flurry of monstrous waves. Surfers dropped down the face of 50- and 60-footers, trying to elude waves exploding behind them.
The crowed gasped, then cheered as famed Hawaiian Water Patrol on jet skis rushed in to rescue fallen surfers and outrun walls of churning white water.
On Thursday, visitors stared out at the surfers who continued to ride the giant waves.
"It was incredible. These waves closed out the whole bay, the jet skis all gunning it in to shore," a visitor from Australia said.
"Clean waves. Four seconds in between. Perfect," a salesperson at a surf shop in Haleiwa noted.
An unofficial Hawaiian holiday, people played hooky from work around the island while the spate of live-streaming from the event is believed to have slowed the Internet.
High-surf warnings remains in effect until 6 p.m. Tuesday for north- and west-facing beaches of Oahu, Molokai, Kauai and Niihau, and the north-facing shores of Maui and the Big Island, according to the National Weather Service .
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