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Surfers pray for 40 foot waves to honor Hawaii legend

Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau is a 30-year tradition that brings together the best in big-wave surfing at Hawaii's Waimea Bay. Competitors pray for conditions that would make most of us run away because the contest can only happen under the most extreme circumstances, reports CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.

It's the most famous big-wave surfing tournament in the world, with moments of stunning success and spectacular failure. The contest happens only when the waves in Waimea Bay are at least 40 feet high and that's occurred only eight times in 30 years.

"Riding a gigantic wave, dropping down, is a big thrill and the thrill also is putting yourself right on the edge of total disaster," Clyde Aikau said.

Only 28 of the world's best big wave surfers are invited but Clyde has a standing invitation -- in part because the tournament, known as "the Eddie" is named in memory of his brother, one of Hawaii's most legendary heroes.

"Eddie did things in his lifetime that normal people just dream of doing," Clyde said.

In the 1960s and '70s Eddie was the first lifeguard at world-famous Waimea Bay, where he and younger brother Clyde rescued hundreds of surfers and swimmers who underestimated the power of the waves.

"In those years, we didn't have any jet skis, we didn't have any helicopters," Clyde said. "All Eddie and I had was [a] surfboard, fins and a gigantic heart to save lives."

Eddie also helped turn big-wave surfing into a major sport.

In 1978, his reputation for selfless courage became legend when a massive double-hulled canoe flipped over in a fierce storm and Eddie volunteered to paddle 12 miles to shore for help. The other 15 crew members were later rescued by the Coast Guard and Eddie was never heard from again.

Clyde said he remembers that day clearly.

"It was just devastating," he said. "Still to this day, it's the biggest ocean search for anyone in Hawaii."

Thirty-seven years later, Eddie's fearlessness is still remembered in Hawaii through countless signs and T-shirts that say simply: Eddie Would Go. He's also remembered at a memorial ceremony in Waimea Bay each December that kick-starts the Eddie. That's when the wait for the big waves begins.

Clyde won the Eddie in 1986 with an inspired ride. In 2009, at age 60, he didn't win but got back on his board after a spectacular wipeout. Now, at 65 years old, no one is more impatient to see those massive waves return.

"The contest has to go this year because I'm kicking in with Medicare and Social Security," Clyde said. "I think it's time for the waves to come and have the event"

Weather satellites will give the surfers about 24 hours notice to get to Hawaii if the huge waves do materialize, but Clyde is playing it safe, staying close by to make sure he doesn't miss what could be his final chance to become the only surfer to win the Eddie twice.

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