7 facts you didn’t know about the surf legend Eddie Aikau

For the first time in 6 years the green light has been given for the Quiksilver, Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational to run at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Hawaii. The prestigious big-wave invitational has a holding period set during the most active swell season on on the North Shore (Dec. 1 - Feb. 28) and requires waves more than 20 feet (40-foot faces) to run. This winter's El Niño weather pattern has been generating swell throughout the Pacific for months now and already provided contestable conditions for the Big Wave Tour's Pe'ahi Challenge and Todos Santos Challenge, not to mention numerous submissions for the Big Wave Awards. If the green alert continues it will be the ninth time it has run in its three-decade history. The last time it ran, in 2009, the contest had a record crowd of more than 30,000 on the beach, cliffs and road around Waimea Bay. That year the Eddie also scored the most international media coverage of any surfing event in history. Big Wave World Tour surfer Greg Long won the event.

 

1. First lifeguard on Oahu's North Shore 

Eddie Aikau was the first ever offical lifeguard at Waimea Bay, on Oahu's North Shore.

 

2. Rescued over 500 people from drowning

During his time as a life guard Eddie Aikau rescued over 500 people, and in 1971 was named Lifeguard of the year

 

3. Not one life lost

Not one life was lost while Eddie Aikau served as lifeguard at Waimea Bay, braving waves that often reached 30 feet (9.1 m) high or more.

 

4. Lifeguard of the year

In 1971 Eddie Aikay was named Lifeguard of the year for his incredible commitment to Waimea Bay and it's residance.

 

5. Lost at sea

In 1978, the Polynesian Voyaging Society was seeking volunteers for a 30-day, 2,500-mile journey to follow the ancient route of the Polynesian migration between the Hawaiian and Tahitianisland 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 help, Aikau paddled toward Lanai on his surfboard. Although the rest of the crew was later rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cape Corwin, Aikau was never seen again. He removed his life jacket since it was hindering his paddling of the surfboard. The ensuing search for Aikau was the largest air-sea search in Hawaiian history.

 

6. Eddie would go!

In the 1980s, bumper stickers and T-shirts with the phrase "Eddie Would Go" spread around the Hawaiian Islands and 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 one else would or could. Only Eddie dared. The phrase originated during the first Eddie contest. The waves were huge and the conditions were extremely dangerous. While the contest organizers were discussing whether to put it on, Mark Foo looked at the conditions and said "Eddie would go." The phrase stuck and the Eddie went!

 

7. Memorial surfing invitational

In Aikau's honor, the surfwear company Quiksilver sponsors the “The Eddie” the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea Bay. The idea of the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational was created by Bruce Raymond and Bob McKnight.

Since its inception (the first Eddie was held at Sunset Beach in 1985, and in 1987 Eddie Aikau's younger brother Clyde Aikau won the first Eddie after it moved to Waimea Bay! The tournament has only been held eight 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). The most recent tournament was in December 2009, when waves in the bay reached 30 to 50 feet. The contest only invites 28 big-wave riders to participate in two rounds of competition. The event does not allow the use of jet skis to tow surfers into the waves.

 

We can't wait to watch the the event unfold, see the big waves surfers take on the force that is Waimea Bay, and remember such an incredible athlete and water man that is Eddie Aikau.

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