- 05 November 2012 | Surfing
The life of Eddie Aikau could be in a movie. The surfer, lifeguard, family man, friend, traveler, musician and hero inspired future generations of wave riders, all around the planet.
Eddie Aikau was born in Kahului, Hawaii, on the 4th May 4, 1946. He was the second-oldest of the five Aikau kids and leader of their pack, since their earliest days on Maui, through to their surfing days on the South and North Shore's of Oahu.
"Eddie was a pretty quiet guy but when there was a challenge, or some risk to be taken, or a game to be played that everybody wanted to win, Eddie seemed to rise to the top. He was high risk at an early age," says younger brother Clyde.
Eddie was the first official lifeguard at Waimea Bay, on Oahu's North Shore, back in 1967. At the same time, he challenged the biggest waves on offer in the Hawaiian Islands. The two brothers worked together, for 10 years up until 1978 and never lost one person. There were no jet skis or zodiacs. Just two youngsters with a board and swim fins.
He simply took on every major swell to come through the North Shore from 1967 to 1978. As a competitor, his best contest result was a win in the 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship.
Eddie Aikau saw big wave surfing, not as a competition, but as a personal goal and reaching the height of his heroes: Greg Noll, Mike Stang, George Downing, John Kelly, Sammy Lee were a huge inspiration for him.
In 1967, Eddie cracked a giant swell at Waimea Bay and made his mark in the world of big wave riding. To this very day, November 19th, 1967, is still the biggest day ever ridden at Waimea Bay. During the early to mid-70s, Eddie traveled to South Africa, South America and Australia in select early-era pro surfing events.
He was always a central figure in bringing people together and was a pivotal character in maintaining calm and camaraderie on the North Shore when competition intensified the lineups.
Eddie Aikau has never had any children of his own, but his compassion and care extended to all who came within his reach. He and Clyde were famous for entertaining people at parties and luaus.
The '70s in Hawaii represented an incredible time in Hawaiian history and for the Aikau family. The music that was coming out of Hawaii expressed the times. The North Shore was a quiet place where waves could be 35 feet but there might be no one on the beach.
In 1978, Aikau was among a handful selected to join the cultural expedition of the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule'a, which set sail from Magic Island, Oahu, bound for Tahiti, on March 16, 1978.
Hokule'a soon encountered treacherous seas outside the Hawaiian Islands and the canoe capsized. After a wild night adrift, Aikau set off on his paddleboard on March 17 in search of help for his stranded crew members.
He was never seen again. The ensuing search for Aikau was the largest air-sea search in Hawaiian history. The body and soul of the well-known Hawaiian lifeguard and surfer lies on the Pacific Ocean forever.
In 1984, the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau event was established at Sunset Beach, in his honor. The event moved the next winter to Waimea Bay and has been a fixture there ever since.