HONOLULU (KHON2) — The who’s who of big wave surfing gathered at Waimea Bay to kick off the holding period for the Eddie on Thursday, December 5.

It was a day of reverence and celebration, honoring Eddie’s legacy.

“I look forward to this day every year. I like cannot miss the opening ceremony no matter where I am in the world,” said Kai Lenny.

Big wave legends and talented up and comers descended on Waimea bay for the opening ceremony of the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational.

This year is the 34th annual, but the event has run only nine times because the waves have to consistently be over 20 feet for the Eddie to go.

“This is the original big wave event and I think it’s the one that symbolizes big wave surfing in Hawaii the best,” said 2002 Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational winner Kelly Slater.

The day kicked off with the Aikau ohana and a traditional Hawaiian ceremony and hookupu.

“It’s always been about family close friends and always trying to share the mana and that spirit with all Hawai’i people,” said Eddie Aikau’s brother Clyde Aikau.

For the invitees, it’s more than a contest.

“I look forward to this every year, just to be a part of this growing up in Hawaii is something I never thought I would be in, let alone win it. So it holds some of my greatest memories right here,” said 2004 Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational winner Bruce Irons.

This year there are 4 females among the 32 invitees.

“Great obviously there’s a little bit more female influence now and big wave surfing and for me personally this has been my only dream and serving as crazy as it is,” Eddie Invitee Emily Erickson.

The holding period for the Eddie runs through the end of February. The last time the contest ran was in 2016 with John John Florence taking the title.