Eddie Aikau was well-known for his surfing and lifeguard skills. In 1968 he was the first lifeguard appointed by the City and County of Honolulu at Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore, where he saved over 500 lives. He was known to brave big waves both as a lifeguard and avid surfer.
In 1978, Eddie Aikau was among a handful selected to join the second cultural expedition to Tahiti aboard Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea. The Hokulea was built to revive traditional Hawaiian long-range canoeing and was first launched in 1976 where it made a successful voyage to Tahiti.
On their second voyage, without modern equipment or escort, the Hokulea encountered treacherous seas off the island of Molokai and capsized, on a dark and stormy night in 1978. After a wild night adrift, the crew exhausted and without outside contact, crew mate Eddie Aikau, one of the best surfers in the world, set off on a nearly 15-mile voyage to the island of Lana‘i on his paddle board in desperate search of help for the stranded crew. Although the crew was eventually rescued, Eddie Aikau was never seen again.
To honor Eddie Aikau’s bravery and sacrifice, the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau surf competition, known locally as “The Eddie,” is held in the winter months if the surf reaches over 30 feet at Waimea Bay. The event draws onlookers from all over the world to participate in tribute to Eddie Aikau, and to watch an andrenaline-pumping competition of the sport he loved most.
In the first year of the competition in 1984, surfers and event coordinators weren’t certain if conditions were safe enough to surf. One competitor, Mark Foo, looked out at the water and said: “Eddie would go.” The event went forward and the phrase stuck. Eddie would go is now used around Hawaii, because Eddie would go where no one else dared.