Eddie Aikau memorial

1 Dec 2011 0 Share

Words and video by Anthony Walsh

As the waiting period for the Eddie Aikau contest begins in Hawaii, the Polynesian Voyaging Society, who have kept the canoe Eddie was last seen on afloat and travelling through out the Pacific, are preparing to set sail again.


The History of the Eddie

Each year on the North Shore, December 1 marks the opening of the Eddie Aikua big-wave invitational contest at Waimea Bay. ‘The Eddie’ has been running for 26 years since it was first held at Sunset Beach in 1985. Eddie Aikau's younger brother, Clyde won the first event held at Waimea in 1987.

The story of Eddie’s life and death, are legendary on the North Shore. He has become a living legend and an inspiration to waterman.

Born as Edward Ryon Makuahanai Aikau in Kahului on the island of Maui in 1946, Eddie moved to Oahu with his family in 1959 where he left school to work at a pineapple cannery and began surfing. In 1968, he became the first lifeguard on the North Shore, covering beaches between Sunset and Haleiwa. In 1971, he was named Lifeguard of the Year, a reflection of his work at Waimea Bay, where he conducted rescues in surf up to 30 foot.

Above: Archival images from the Eddie.

In 1978, the Polynesian Voyaging Society was seeking volunteers for a 30 day, 4,000 km journey following the ancient Polynesian’s migration between Tahiti and Hawaii. Aikau joined the crew aboard the Hokule'a and which set sail on March 16. Soon after departure, the double-hulled canoe developed a leak and eventually capsized around 20 kilometres south of Molokai.

Aikau paddled toward Lanai on his surfboard to get help but was never seen again. The rest of the crew were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cape Corwin. He removed his lifejacket since it was hindering his paddling of the surfboard. The ensuing search for Aikau was the largest air-sea search in Hawaii history.

Since then the Hokule‘a has continued it’s voyage, completing nine more voyages to destinations in Micronesia, Polynesia, Japan, Canada, and the Mainland USA, all using ancient techniques of celestial navigation, to foster cultural pride and revive ancient knowledge. Now, the Polynesian Voyaging Society are preparing her for a worldwide voyage.

The restoration process began in 2010, using the original hulls. Hokule’a will emerge from dry dock stronger, lighter and more stable than ever.
“There is really very little change to the design, and no change in how we sail the canoe,” said Society president Nainoa Thompson.

For more information or to donate to the restoration, go to www.pvs.kcc.hawaii.edu

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