Kanaka Maoli Eddie Aikau
Hawaiian legend, lifeguard, surfer
Edward Ryon Makuahanai Aikau was born on the island of Maui on May 4, 1946. Eddie loved the ocean and first learned how to surf on shorebreaks at Kahului Harbor. As a young teen his family moved to Oahu in 1959. He left school at the age of 16 and started working at the Dole Pineapple Cannery; The paycheck allowed Eddie to buy his first surfboard.
In 1968, Eddie became the first lifeguard hired by the City & County of Honolulu assigned to Oahu’s North Shore. He was based at Waimea, but covered all beaches between Sunset and Haleiwa.
Eddie saved many lives from the large pounding surf. Not one life was lost under his North Shore watch. In 1971, Eddie Aikau was named Lifeguard of the Year.
Eddie’s popularity grew while winning several surf meets and awards for riding the big Hawaiian surf. In 1977 he won the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship.
On March 16, 1978 the Hokule’a developed a leak and capsized 12 miles off Moloka’i. In an attempt to get help, Eddie jumped on his surfboard and started paddling towards the island of Lanai. He removed his life vest because it hindered his paddling. Eddie was never seen alive again. On March 17, 1978 Eddie Aikau was presumed dead. The remainder of the crew was rescued by the Coast Guard.
Contrary to what some believe, Eddie Aikau was not tagged with the term “Eddie Would Go” for his bravery and sacrifice during the Hokule’a voyage. Although it fit the bill perfectly. The saying “Eddie Would Go” became popular when Eddie was a lifeguard. No one else would brave the huge North Shore surf to save surfers except one, Eddie… Eddie would go.