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Hawaiian: The Legend Of Eddie Aikau

Posted on 04 December 2013


How often have you seen stickers placed neatly on car bumpers and back windshields that read, EDDIE WOULD GO? Perhaps you questioned where Eddie would go or even who is this Eddie? Well for you, the curious and the uninformed, we have answers. The name Eddie Aikau is synonymous with Hawaiian surfing and he truly epitomizes the term “legend.” Born May 4, 1946, Edward Ryon Makuahanai Aikau became the first lifeguard at Waimea on the north shore of Oahu in 1971. Waimea, the gigantic spitting behemoth wave, boasts a threatening combination of neck-snapping shorebreak with faces reaching 50 and 60 feet. As a lifeguard at this treacherous spot, Eddie Aikau dared to go headfirst into places others would not, risking his life daily. He saved countless lives. Under Eddie’s watch, not one life was lost. Throughout most of the ‘70s, Aikau secured his Hawaiian big wave reputation by winning the Duke classic in 1977 and other notable accolades. Three months later in March 1978, Aikau joined a voyage by the Polynesian Voyaging Society to retrace the ancient journey taken by Polynesians through the Hawaiian and Tahitian chain. Hours into the journey, the ship’s hull sprung a leak and capsized. Ever the lifeguard, Aikau volunteered to paddle to the 12 miles to Lanai for help. Within hours, a pilot saved the remaining crew but tragically, Aikau was never found. Today, a memorial stands at Waimea Bay Beach Park for the hero and an illustrious invitation-only event occurs at the bay each winter in his name. So now, when you see a pickup loaded with boards and a sticker questioning where Eddie would go, you know he’d head right into any wave to rescue someone. You’d know that he’d risked his life for countless people over his short 32 years and that he’d still be doing that if he could. You’d know that as one of the only fallen heroes of surfing still celebrated today, he’s really the stuff of legend. Want to learn more and delve deeper into who this surfing hero was? Desire to gain better understanding? See the man in action? Well, you’re in luck! In 2012, the producers of Dogtown and Z-Boys and Riding Giants marked another posthumous note in Aikau’s story, and released Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau. The film chronicles not only Aikau’s surfing achievements and ocean courage, but also his advocacy for native Hawaiians in a time of the “New Hawaii,” his fight to keep his native culture from becoming something of touristy movie poster lore. It gives a fuller picture of who the man was behind the legend. It won Best Picture at the Malibu Film Festival and is narrated by badass Josh Brolin.

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