Eddie would go

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- I'll be honest; there are two statements that still surprise me when they come from people who are raised on a Pacific island. That is, "I can't swim" and "What does 'Eddie Would Go' mean?"

For the purposes of this article, I will only address the latter in honor of May as Asian-Pacific Islander month; however, as encouragement I would say that it is never too late to learn to swim.

If you have ever been to Hawaii, whether it was one day or 20 years, odds are you have seen the automobile bumper stick that read, "Eddie Would Go." Most locals know that this is referring to one of Hawaii's greatest heroes, Eddie Aikau.

Eddie was described by his closest friends as a humble man who was larger than life. As a surfer, he rode the biggest waves in the world; as a lifeguard, he saved hundreds of lives from the North Shore's treacherous waters; and as a proud Hawaiian, he sacrificed his life to save his fellow sailors aboard the voyaging canoe Hokule'a.

In 1968, he became the very first lifeguard hired by the city and county of Honolulu to work on the North Shore. Eddie had the task of covering all of the beaches between Sunset and Haleiwa. Not one life was lost while he served as lifeguard of Waimea Bay, as he braved waves that often reached 30 feet high or more. Eddie 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 else would or could. Only Eddie dared.

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 Tahitian island chains. At 31 years old, Eddie 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 12 miles south of the island of Molokai. In an attempt to get help, Eddie paddled toward Lanai on his surfboard. Although the rest of the crew was later rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, Eddie was never seen again. His life is now legend. Today, when you visit the Eddie Aikau Memorial plaques at either, Waimea Bay or The Hokule'a, they both read, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" ~ John 15:13

In Eddie's honor, the surf wear company Quiksilver sponsors the "The Eddie" -- the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea Bay. The tournament has only been held seven times in 23 years, due to a precondition that open-ocean swells must reach a minimum of 20 feet (this translates to a wave face height of over 30 feet -- there is no other way to describe them but huge.) The contest only invites 24 big-wave riders to participate in two rounds of competition.

There is no doubt that Eddie remains one of Hawaii's most beloved figures. His legend certainly exudes commitment, strength, humility and cultural pride that endure to this day.
Each May, Peterson AFB observes Asian-Pacific Islander month. This year, the special observance committee has planned a Luau, among other things, May 27, at Eagle Park to showcase different cultures to the attendees. Please join us -- it is a guaranteed good time.

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