The Legacy of Eddie Aikau
When many people think of aloha, they think of the terms hello and goodbye, but the term means so much more than that. Aloha is a way of life, an attitude, and most importantly, a genuine spirit that leaves an impact on everything in its path. The spirit of Aloha is everything that Eddie Aikau represented.
Eddie Aikau was one of Hawaii’s unsung heroes, who represented the brusque yet gentle culture of surfing, the renaissance of his culture, and most importantly, Hawaiian culture.
He was born on May 4, 1946 on the island of Maui, the third of six siblings. The close-knit family moved to Oahu in 1959 for better opportunities. During this period, Eddie learned how to surf at the well-known Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.
Many who knew Eddie often talked of the contrast between his quiet nature and his high-risk behavior. “He was high risk at such an early age,” said his younger brother, Clyde Aikau.
Eddie’s warmth was bigger than the island itself, and it extended to locals and foreigners alike. In 1967, Eddie took a job as a lifeguard, becoming the first official lifeguard on Oahu’s tranquil North Shore. During this time, Eddie ranked highly in surf culture, earning recognition for surfing waves as tall as 30 feet. He won first place at the 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship, earning the phrase “Eddie would go!” due to his bravery in facing waves that other surfers would shy away from. This also brought Eddie to destinations such as Australia and South Africa.
This accomplishment proved to be the proudest in Eddie’s life. As time progressed, Eddie grew more involved in his Hawaiian heritage. Selected for the Polynesian Voyage Society, Eddie would join the Hokule’a to voyage to Tahiti using the traditional Polynesian navigation system. Before taking off, many Hawaiians listened to Eddie for the last time on a local radio station.
The Hokule’a set sail on March 16th, 1978, a calm, breezy day. As time passed, the Hokule’a took a very bad turn. A leak appeared in the canoe, later causing the boat to overturn. Eddie went searching for help on his surfboard, never to be seen again.
As the remaining crew were rescued, search parties doggedly searched for Eddie before the search came to an abrupt end. On March 17th, 1978, Eddie Aikau was lost at sea, never to be found again.
Although Eddie’s death had a profound effect on those who knew him, they were determined to keep his memory alive; Clyde Aikau created a surf competition known as “The Eddie” in honor of his late brother. Eddie’s legacy was bigger than many could imagine, his warmth and bravery massive and never wavering. He serves as a true spirit for aloha due to his sacrifices and accomplishments.
Image courtesy of Maddie Ryan and Angelo Cordero.