Our story this week takes place on November 19, 1967 by the Waimea Bay of Hawaii on the island of Oahu. On that day, there were insanely large waves, way too big for anyone to dare to surf them. This is where our hero the surfing legend Eddie Aikau (pronounced eye-cow), Eddie went deeper and rode bigger waves than anyone ever before, he became an instant surfing celebrity.
Eddie was known for riding massive waves and won First Place at the prestigious 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship.
A couple years passed, and the waves didn’t get any safer and people were drowning all the time because the waves were so intense. Eventually people realized they should probably get a lifeguard, so Eddie became the first life guard of the city and county of Honolulu. No one died on his watch and he managed to have saved over 500 lives.
Later, in the 1970’s Australian surfers started winning a bunch of surfing competitions and saying Hawaiian surfing was old and out of date, and Hawaiians needed to learn new surfing techniques. So, Hawaiians started getting annoyed and would beat up the Australians because surfing is a huge part of the Hawaiian culture.
The Australians got beat up so much that they don’t leave their hotel rooms, so Eddie goes to visit them one day and they armed themselves with tennis rackets thinking it was more people trying to beat them up. Trying to make peace with the bruised Australians, Eddie brings them to a hotel conference room where he explains that for decades white people have said the Hawaiian culture isn’t real and not modern, so it’s disrespectful when they come to Hawaii and speak poorly of the natives and Hawaiians respect that they’re good surfers but they hate that Australians are annoying about it because Hawaiians surf because they love it, not to win competitions or win prizes.
Eddie was very proud of his Hawaiian heritage and wanted his people to be respected, so in 1978 he was chosen at the age of 31 to take part in the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s (known as the Hokulea) second trip. In this voyage, the Hawaiians would follow the ancient route of the Polynesian migration to Hawaii, a 2,500 mile journey.
About 12 miles off the island of Molokai, the boat gets leak during a storm. Being the hero that he is, Eddie took off life vest and tries to swim to get help. He got on his board and paddled toward Lanai.
Just a few hours later the people on the boat see an airplane and they fire the flare and they all get rescued. But unfortunately, Eddie didn’t make it back.
In his memory there is a competition called “The Eddie” where people try to surf big and crazy waves. It was during this competition surfers were not sure if they should go because the waves were extremely dangerous, a legendary big wave surfer Mark Foo says “Eddie would go”.
To this day Eddie is known as a Hawaiian hero, and there is a surfing competition sponsored by Quiksilver which is meant to eternalize his love of big waves. It is a very honorable competition, watched worldwide annually. Participants are chosen by Quiksilver, friends and the community to compete for Eddie. It is thought that whoever wins the competition that year is visited by Eddie that day.
This story represents how Hawaii is still seen as their own culture and the effects of ruining a native culture can have on its inhabitants. Although we have worked to Americanize the island, they keep a strong heritage and have remained an important part of islander cultural resistance to American destruction.