Edward Ryan Makua Hanai Aikau (May 4, 1946 - March 17, 1978) was a well-known Hawaiian lifeguard and surfer. As the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay on the island of Oahu, he saved many lives and became well known as a big-wave surfer in his own right.


Born on the island of Maui, Aikau later moved to O‘ahu with his family in 1959. In 1968, he became the first lifeguard hired by the City & County of Honolulu to work on the North Shore. Not one life was lost while he served as lifeguard of Waimea Bay, as he braved surf that often reached 20 feet high or more. He became very famous for surfing the big Hawaiian surf and won several surfing awards including the 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship.

In 1978, the Polynesian Voyaging Society was seeking volunteers for a 30-day, 2500 mile journey to follow the ancient route of the Polynesian migration between the Hawaiian and Tahitian island chains. At 31 years of age, Aikau joined the voyage as a crew member. The Hokule'a left the Hawaiian islands on March 16, 1978. The double-hulled voyaging canoe developed a leak in one of the hulls and later capsized about twelve miles south of the island of Molokai. In an attempt to get to land to get help, Aikau paddled toward Lanai on his surfboard. Although the rest of the crew was soon rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, Aikau was never seen again.

In Aikau's honor, the surfwear company Quiksilver sponsors the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea Bay. Since its inception in 1984, the tournament has only been held seven times, due to a precondition that open-ocean swells reach a minimum of 20 feet (this translates to a wave face height of over 30 feet).[1]

Popular cultureEdit

In the 1980's, bumper stickers and T-shirts with the phrase "Eddie Would Go" spread around the Hawaiian Islands to the rest of the world. According to maritime historian Mac Simpson, "Aikau was a legend on the North Shore, pulling people out of waves that no one else would dare to. That's where the saying came from -- Eddie would go, when no else would or could. Only Eddie dared."[2]

Another variation of the aforementioned popular phrase is "Eddie wouldn't tow." This phrase is in reference to the method of big wave surfing in which one surfer must accelerate another surfer (the former on a jet ski, the latter towed on a surfboard) to the speed of a large, fast wave. It is also partially in response to the controversy over the "unnaturalness" of tow-in surfing; many surfers feel that being towed in to a wave, as opposed to paddling, is against the spirit of the sport. [3]



  • Coleman, Stuart. (2002). Eddie Would Go: The story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero. MindRaising Press.



  1. Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau
  2. Eddie: Riding on the crest of a myth, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1998-03-06
  3. Waterman: Brian Keaulana and the Rise of Ocean Safety, Spirit of Aloha (Aloha Airlines), 2005-07-01

External linksEdit

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