In Memory of Heroes in Hawaii

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In Memory of Heroes in Hawaii

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Oahu
Dec 08, 2009

When you live in Hawai'i, you don't forget December 7, the anniversary of the attack of Pearl Harbor 68 years ago.  It's a day of remembrance.

Today is another such day.  The 25th anniversary of the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational.  It only runs when the surf reaches heights of 20 feet at Waimea on O'ahu during the annual one-month holding period.  In its 25-year history, the event has only run seven times.  Today makes eight.

Yesterday's arrival of big waves came as no surprise.  A week ago, the local media began hyping a big swell.  As the day grew closer, the expected wave heights grew bigger--20, 30, 40 feet--in the way a fish grows bigger with every retelling of the tale of its landing.  Big wave surfers arrived from Australia, Japan, South America, mainland US and, of course, the main Hawaiian Islands. 

Eddie Aikau is a legendary waterman.  He pioneered big wave surfing.  More than that, in 1968, he was hired as the first lifeguard on O'ahu's North Shore, saving hundreds and hundreds of swimmers, beachgoers and fellow surfers who found themselves in trouble in the water.  In 1971, Eddie was named Lifeguard of the Year.  Around Hawai'i, you may see T-shirts, bumper stickers and signs that say, "Eddie Would Go."  It's become a famous refrain, meaning when others turn back--when others won't brave the waves--Eddie would.  To surf and to save.

In 1978, at 31, when the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule'a capsized 12 miles off Moloka'i, Eddie and his crew bobbed in turbulent seas.  On his surfboard, Eddie paddled toward Lana'i to get help.  He was never seen again.

If you want to learn more about Eddie Aikau, read Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero by Stuart Holmes Coleman.

I called Ranger Sheri at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge yesterday afternoon.  "Are the waves huge?  Do I need to come check 'em out."  Without missing a beat, she said, "Yes."  The picture above is a result of my outing.  See how the water is crawling up the cliff?  When it blasts off the top, it reminds me of fireworks--or "waterworks."

Watching the ocean from a 100-foot vantage point can be a mesmerizing experience. It gives you an appreciation for something greater than yourself.  And on December 7, it makes you remember those people who give their lives to save others.

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