I know that mentioning surfing when you talk about Hawaii is everything but original. But, come on, it would be like writing about Las Vegas without telling about the casinos: just weird.
Apart from having the most legendary spots in the world for surfing, Hawaii also has a bunch of sports heroes who enjoy quasi-religious worship. Above all of them is Eddie Aikau, a Maui-born pioneer of big wave riding whose memorial is yearly attended by some of the finest surfers in the world: The Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational at Waymea Bay.
But, who was Eddie Aikau? Why is his name so deeply rooted into the Hawaiian psyche? What did he do? Would he be so famous if he hadn’t died in the ocean?
To be fair, he ticks all the boxes to be considered an icon: heroic life, amazing achievements and a tragic death.
The chap started to draw attention in the sixties. On November 19th 1967 a huge swell came to Waimea, on the north shore of the island of O’ahu, and guess who was there to ride the biggest waves ever? He made history and appeared on Life magazine. What a star.
Being an amazing surfer is one thing, but saving lives is another. He managed to convince the Honolulu City and County to make him North Shore lifeguard, covering all beaches between Sunset and Haleiwa. Allegedly he saved hundred of lives during three years, before moving residence to Waimea Bay. Despite a high number of incautious swimmers and kamikaze surfers going through 30 feet waves, no one lost their life while Eddie served as lifeguard.
Through the 1970s his reputation as big wave master grew and grew, winning championships like the Duke Classic in 1977. One year later he lost his life in the ocean? How?
…read Part II