Edward Ryon Makuahanai "Eddie" Aikau (May 4, 1946 – March 17, 1978) is one of the most respected names in surfing. He was the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay on the island of Oahu. He saved many lives and became well known as a big-wave surfer. "Eddie" was a true symbol of Aloha.
Born on the island of Maui, Aikau later moved to O'ahu with his family in 1959. In 1968, he became the first lifeguard hired by the City & County of Honolulu to work on the North Shore. Not one life was lost while he served as lifeguard at Waimea Bay. Eddie braved surf that often reached 20 feet high or more to make a rescue. He became very famous for surfing the bigHawaiian surf and won several surfing awards including First Place at the prestigious 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship. The local saying, "Eddie Would Go," refers to his stoke to take on big waves that other surfers would shy away from and his courage to make a rescue in impossible situations.
"Eddie" became involved in perpetuating his Hawaiian heritage. In 1976, the Polynesian Voyaging Society sailed the Hokule'a on a successful 30-day, 2500 mile journey following the ancient route of the Polynesian migration between the Hawaiian and Tahitian islands. In 1978, a second voyage of the traditional sailing canoe was planned. At 31 years of age, Aikau was selected for this 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 in stormy weather about twelve miles south of the island of Molokai. In an attempt to get to land to save his crew and the Hokule'a, Aikau paddled toward Lanai on his surfboard. Hours later a commercial airplane spotted the Hokule'a and the rest of the crew was soon rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. Aikau was missing at sea. Despite great search efforts "Eddie" was never seen again.