Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eddie Would Go

In lieu of my recent expedition abroad for the Marlins Visit the Troops tour, my last stop has landed me in Hawaii.  A very special surfing tournament in the winter is held here and I'm not talking about Pipe Masters.  "The Eddie" is an invitation only surf contest held in Waimea Bay.  It features the worlds top riders and only happens if the waves reach swell heights of 20 feet.  To put this in perspective, the contest has only happened 8 times since 1985.  

The man, whose names bears the contests sole purpose, is Eddie Aikau.  Eddie was just your everyday Hawaiian kid who grew up in Maui and moved to O'ahu at a young age.  He worked at a Dole pineapple cannery and bought his first "real" surfboard at 16.  He started off charging the beaches of Waikiki and later on graduated to the epic swells of Hawaii's North Shore.  His job at the pineapple plant had run its course and he convinced the city and county of Honolulu to appoint him as North Shore's first ever lifeguard.  Eddie started his job saving foreigners and marines out of the water in huge swells that they had no point being in, and continuing to surf some of Hawaii's biggest waves.  He was living his dream winning big wave surf contests like the Duke Classic in 1977 and saving countless lives in the water.  Something was missing though.

On the evening of March 16, 1978 he and several others started out on a journey to retrace the ancient Polynesian migration passage between Hawaii and the Tahitian Islands chain - 2,400 miles south of Honolulu.  Headed up by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Eddie and crew took a double-hulled replica canoe called the Hokule'a on a journey of  a life time.  The crew set out with no backup vessel and no modern day navigational instruments.  By midnight the vessel had sprung a leak and eventually capsized.  In the morning, the crew was hanging out for dear life while caught in a serious south flowing current and trade winds.  Against the captains wishes, Eddie had volunteered to paddle back to Lanai for help which was guessed to be 12 miles away.  By 10:30am Eddie had convinced the Captain and stated off on his journey.  At 8:27pm a Hawaiian Air jet pilot saw the crew and had relayed for help saving them all.  Eddie was never found.  A memorial was built at Waimea Bay where Eddie spent his days saving lives and surfing waves that most Hawaiians wouldn't dream about.  

In an effort to save his crew, Eddie will always be remember as a man who risked his life for the service of others.  The mantra "Eddie Would Go" captivated the surf culture and still remains as a popular saying today.  So if you ever find yourself on the fence about an adventure at hand just think, Eddie would have gone.