HONOLULU (KHON2) – The legend of this man has grown exponentially in the 45 years since his untimely passing. As a result, the life and sacrifice of Adi Ekau has become the subject of myths and legends over the years.
But, who was Eddie Ikau and why did his sacrifice matter? More importantly, what does it mean when you see it on a bumper sticker or hear someone say “Eddie will go”? Let’s take a moment and consider these questions.
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Eddie the Family Man.
Eddie was born in the year of the Dog. This largely established how loyal he was to his family, his home, and his crew. He was the second of five boys born into an Aikau family on Maui.
The Aikau family comes from a significant Hawaiian lineage. Aikaus was the high priest of King Kamehameha I and King Kamehameha II.
At the age of 16, Eddie moved from Maui to Oahu with his family. As a result, he left school to work at the Dole Pineapple Cannery. With the money from this job, he bought his first surfboard.
According to interviews by his brother, Clyde Ekau, Eddie was adventurous from an early age. By the age of 21, he had ridden the biggest waves ever recorded on the North Shore of Oahu and had marked himself as a legend in surfing.
Eddie the Lifeguard and Big Wave Surfer.
In 1967 Eddie rode the biggest waves ever recorded on the North Shore of Oahu. This cemented him in the echelon of legends.
In 1968, Eddie was the first person employed as a lifeguard on the North Shore. He was the only lifeguard for all North Shore beaches. During his tenure as a lifeguard, he saved over 500 lives from massive waves.
McKinnon Simpson is a maritime historian. He seems to be cited in every resource about AD. According to Simpson, the “Eddie will go” catchphrase is something that came about while he was a lifeguard on the North Shore.
The City and County of Honolulu hired Eddie to oversee all beaches from Sunset to Haleiwa. And, he did it with amazing stamina. He was able to go out into waters that others could not or would not navigate, and in doing so he saved lives. Thus, the saying “Eddie Go Go” was born.
Eddie became Lifeguard of the Year in 1971 because of his amazing feats and fearlessness. He then won the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship in 1977.
Eddy and Hokule’a.
People hear a lot about the Hokule’e who live here in Hawaii. The significance of this cultural icon is of great importance to Hawaiian history and tradition. Hōkūleʻa first began retrieving Polynesian maritime culture and knowledge in 1975 when the crew left Hawaii for Tahiti. It took them a little over a year to land in Tahiti in 1976.
This maiden voyage sparked the imaginations of many local Hawaiians. Eddie Ikau was one such person.
Eddie was invited to join the crew of Hōkūleʻa for the 1978 voyage, along with a select group of Hawaiian maritime experts.
According to historians, on March 16, Hōkūleʻa left the magic island on Oahu bound for Tahiti. The next day, the canoe developed a leak in its hull about 12 miles off the coast of Molokai. The canoe overturned. To save his crew, Eddie volunteers to paddle his surfboard across Lanai to bring the rescue team back to Hōkūleʻa.
Unfortunately, once Eddie left his crew, he was never seen again. He had taken off his lifejacket to make paddling his surfboard easier.
According to Hawaii’s maritime historians, Eddie’s discovery was the greatest Hawaiian-sea discovery in the history of Hawaii. Eddie’s body was never recovered; It was a great blow to the hearts of the local surfers.
One can only imagine the devastation experienced by those who knew and loved Eddie the most.
Creation of the Eddie Big Wave Invitational.
The Eddie Big Wave Invitational first took place in 1985, seven years after his disappearance. It was sponsored by Quiksilver.
His brother, Clyde, was invited to compete in 1987 and won.
Since 1985, the AD has happened nine times. Why so few times for this prestigious competition?
The reason is simple. Sea waves should be at least 20 feet continuously [front face size] In height. The reason for this requirement is because of the waves on which Eddie secured his legend.
This year holds a lot of anticipation. The last time the competition took place was in 2016 when John John Florence won and women are not yet allowed to compete.
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This year’s competition will see women on the big waves for the first time and everyone involved is excited for the new additions.