Riding The Wind with Mason Ho | The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational 2023

Riding The Wind with Mason Ho | The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational 2023

Go behind the scenes with Mason Ho at the 2023 Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational…

A religious site for native Hawaiian peoples, for centuries Waimea Bay has been a place of deep sacred significance. The tradition of celebration and reverence for the ocean continues today with the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. For Mason Ho and his father, Michael, there really is nothing better than a day together at the Bay.

Held in honor of the late, great Hawaiian waterman and lifeguard Eddie Aikau, who in 1978 heroically surrendered his life to the sea in an effort to save the crew members of the Hawaiian sailing canoe Hōkūleʻa, the contest is only held in the biggest, heaviest, most consistent conditions at Waimea. So when a giant, long-period northwest swell showed up on swell models, the Eddie was called on for January 22, 2022. 

Suffering a fin to his calf on the previous swell, Mason wasn’t about to let this opportunity get away.

There’s nothing like it, I wouldn’t miss this for the world.

Of course, that was before he saw the surf. The sheer power and size of Waimea at its most ferocious is enough to make even the most hardened big-wave warriors think twice.

“I’m glad I’m not out there, but I’m so bummed my dad’s out there,” Mase continued with a bit of a bemused look on his face.

The worry was all for not. This isn’t Michael “Pops” Ho’s first rodeo. At 65 years young, the man is charging harder than ever—inspiring countless aging surfers and proving that age is merely a number.

“It’s perfect out there…like Honolua Bay but it’s Waimea,” smiled Pops.

Perhaps Mase’s best highlight came in the form of an extended airdrop into oblivion. It looks like for a moment that he may just stick the sickest airdrop ever at the Bay, but there proved to be no bottom to the wave and had he held on he probably would have annihilated one of his competitors.

“I was riding the wind,”

As far as size goes, Mase estimated the day to be about 60-foot on the face. And with a couple dozen of the most elite big-wave surfers in the world on hand, the show was one for the history books. In the end, everyone made it back to the beach safely, which seems like no small feat given the conditions. 

“Everyone in this event…is so mental,” marveled Mase.

In the end, in the truest spirit of the event, it was North Shore lifeguard Luke Shepardson who took the win. In the true spirit of Eddie Aikau, who was the first lifeguard to work the tower at Waimea, Luke started his day on duty. His boss was kind enough to let him take a break to surf his first heat. Then when it looked like he was in the running and could possibly win the thing, he was given the rest of the day off to go surf. Undoubtedly Eddie was looking down on the Bay with a big, old smile beaming across his face.