Big-wave surfer Ramón Navarro recently made the long journey from Chile to the North Shore of Oahu to participate in “The Eddie,” the most prestigious big wave surfing event in the world. The Quicksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau BigWave Invitational has only taken place eight times in the last 31 years, and Ramon didn’t want to miss it.
After flying all the way to Hawaii, Ramon arrived at Waimea Bay early in the morning on Feb. 10th but even in the darkness, he couldn’t see or hear the pounding waves. To the disappointment and dismay of thousands of spectators and the 28 wave gladiators, the Eddie was called off that day due to unfavorable conditions. There were no wild beasts for Ramón to tame that day at Waimea Bay.
The last Eddie ran seven years ago when the Bay roared to life in 2009. At that contest, Ramón Navarro surfed some of the biggest waves of the day and earned a 5th place finish among the best big-wave surfers in the world. If that wasn’t enough of a career highlight, he was also awarded the Monster Energy Drop Award for conquering a giant wave of 35 feet and masterfully avoiding being swallowed by the huge explosion of white water created upon detonation. That ride made history by putting up the third perfect 100-point score in the eight events that have been run in the past quarter century.
“That was one of the best waves of my life,” Ramón told author Stuart Coleman at Waimea Bay during the opening ceremony for the contest, reminiscing on that moment. “It changed my career forever, it changed my life forever. Eddie sent that wave to me.” That ride was the highlight of the new Patagonia film called The Fisherman’s Son, which portrayed Ramón’s roles as a big-wave rider and activist and his journey from Peru to Hawaii’s North Shore, where he was chosen to compete in the Eddie.
The Eddie was the first surf contest of this magnitude ever to be hosted. With required, consistent wave heights of 20-30 feet at Waimea Bay, this contest has a fickle history. However, regardless of how seldom the Eddie is a go, this event has had a more profound impact on surfing, both as a sport and a cultural event, than any other contest. It not only commemorates the life of Edward Ryon Makuahanai Aikau (Eddie) but celebrates Hawaiian culture as well.
Born and raised in the waves of Chile, Ramón has fought hard to protect his own culture and its beautiful coastal areas. As a surf ambassador for Save the Waves Surf, an environmental non-profit, he led a community opposition to the construction of a proposed sewage pipeline being built in Pichilemu, Chile. In honor of his work as a committed activist, taking care of both land and sea, Ramón was awarded the Surfrider Foundation’s prestigious John Kelly Environmental Achievement Award in 2015.
“That was amazing…I am really proud,” Ramón told Coleman and Surfrider Board Member Ed Kertis at Waimea after receiving the Award. “It is a great motivation for me to keep doing what I am doing.”
Ramón has proven to be a dedicated surf ambassador, not only in charging giant waves, yet also challenging environmental injustice. Two weeks after the contest was almost run, Waimea Bay roared back to life on Feb. 25. Reporters and big-wave veterans said that the waves were the largest in the contest’s history. With butterflies in his stomach, Ramón charged into the giant surf as if chanting the mantra Eddie Would Go.
Even though John John Florence came out the winner that day, no one placed a perfect score like Ramón did at the last contest. Ramon can take comfort in the fact that he still has one of the few perfect scores at the Bay, and like Eddie, his legacy will live on in the good work he is doing for the environment.