In May 1946, a baby was born and given the name Eddie Aikau. Even at birth he was already a unique character, being the descendant of a high priest of King Kamehameha I. But he was also born with a powerful love and respect of the ocean, and eventually he developed an unmatched talent for surfing and swimming, and an innate courage that enabled him to save hundreds of lives.
In 1968, Eddie was living on the island of Oahu and became the first lifeguard ever to work on the North Shore, officially appointed by the County of Honolulu. He had to watch over all of the beaches from Sunset to Haleiwa, and yet not a single life was lost while Eddie Aikau worked at Waimea Bay, even when he swam out into waves that reached 30 feet or higher to perform rescues. In his time as a lifeguard, he saved over 500 people and became famous for his incredible talent and skill as a big-wave surfer.
Then, ten years later in 1978, Eddie volunteered to be a part of a 2500-mile, 30-day voyage across the ocean in a traditional Polynesian canoe with Tahiti as the destination. Eddie was just 31 years old, and ready for another adventure. The voyaging canoe left on a beautiful spring day in March, but quickly developed a leak just south of the island of Molokai.
The crew was in a bad spot, miles from safety, but in his usual fashion of courage and selflessness, Eddie volunteered to paddle out on his surfboard and get to the nearest island for help.
Eddie Aikau was never seen again.
The ensuring search for Eddie was the largest and most extensive air-sea search in the history of Hawaii, but to no avail. Legend has it that he became a very part of the ocean waves and his spirit still remains to protect the Islands from any type of catastrophe.
Years later, in the 80’s, Quiksilver was putting on its Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational In Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea Bay, hosted only because the waves were at a minimum of 20 feet. The conditions were huge and dangerous, and no one was sure whether the contest should continue. But Mark Foo, another surfer famous for his daring and talent, looked out at the ocean and said, “Eddie would go.”
From then on that phrase become an iconic saying around the Islands and the rest of the world, describing perfectly the life of Eddie Aikau: a short, sweet life of courage bordering on insanity, and selflessness near sainthood. May his bravery never be forgotten.
So the next time you’re contemplating a decision that has risk and would require bravery, whether its surfing with us in Costa Rica or changing your job or moving to a new city, just think… Eddie would go.