Eddie Aikau was not just a surfer or a lifeguard; he was a legend whose bravery and selflessness defined an era of Hawaiian watermanship. Born in 1946, Aikau’s life was intertwined with the ocean from an early age, growing up in a family with a deep connection to Hawaiian heritage. Aikau was a descendant of Hewahewa, the esteemed kahuna nui (high priest) of King Kamehameha I and his successor Kamehameha II, adding a rich cultural heritage to his legacy.

One of Eddie Aikau’s most remarkable feats was his role as the first appointed lifeguard at Waimea Bay, a place known for its towering waves and treacherous currents. Despite the lack of modern equipment like jet skis, Aikau fearlessly patrolled the waters, making over 500 rescues during his career. What’s even more astonishing is that not a single life was lost while he served as the lifeguard at Waimea Bay, a testament to his skills and dedication to saving lives.

Aikau’s reputation for bravery spread far and wide. He was renowned for venturing into surf that reached an astounding 30 feet high, a task that would daunt even the most experienced watermen. His fearlessness in the face of danger earned him the slogan ‘Eddie would go,’ symbolizing his willingness to take on challenges that others deemed impossible.

In 1968, Aikau achieved another milestone when he convinced the City & County of Honolulu to appoint him as their first lifeguard. His responsibilities expanded to cover all beaches between Sunset and Haleiwa, showcasing his expertise in ocean safety and rescue operations.

Despite the risks inherent in his profession, Aikau’s courage never wavered. He was voted Lifeguard of the Year in 1971, a well-deserved recognition of his tireless efforts to protect beachgoers and surfers alike.

Tragically, Eddie Aikau’s life came to a premature end on March 17, 1978, during a boating trip with the Polynesian Voyaging Society. The vessel encountered trouble, capsized, and left Aikau and the crew stranded at sea. They were 14 miles from Lānaʻi, outside shipping lanes. So, in a display of incredible bravery, Aikau paddled toward Lānaʻi on his surfboard in a bid to seek help. Although the U.S. Coast Guard eventually rescued the crew, Aikau was never found.