Social Encore: Aikau’s legend lives on

Jul. 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser

There is no denying that surfing has played a big part within our culture. At one point in Hawaiian history, surfing was reserved for royalty.

An amateur surfer myself, riding amongst Mother Nature is not always an easy task but learning more about the sport and how others enjoy it has always fascinated me.

Eddie Aikau


Presented by the Honolulu Museum of Art

» Where: Doris Duke Theatre, 900 S. Beretania St.
» When: Now through July 31
» Cost: $10 for regular screenings, $15 for opening and closing nights, $95 for 10-screening flash pass
» Info: (808) 532-8700,

Last weekend was the opening of the month-long Honolulu Surf Film Festival at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Doris Duke Theatre. The film buff in me was eager to attend and screen some of the films featured this year.

Those born and raised in Hawaii often hear the famous saying, “Eddie would go!” It originates from the heartfelt story of legendary surfer Edward Ryon Makuahanai Aikau, better known to many as Eddie, and his eagerness to tackle on big North Shore waves most surfers would be afraid to attempt. The waterman was lost at sea on March 17, 1978 when he went to get help after the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule‘a capsized several hours into its 1978 journey to Tahiti from Hawaii.

Aikau’s Hawaiian name means “fostering parent.” The story of his nurturing ways and legacy lives on through his brothers and sister, the Eddie Aikau Foundation, the annual winter Quiksilver Memorial Surfing Contest and the Emmy Award-winning ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau.”

The film was featured on opening night at this year’s seventh annual festival and really moved me — not because of how he died, but because of how he lived and how his legacy runs deep within the surfing community. His brothers and sister were able to share how deeply rooted he was, not only as a Native Hawaiian but as a surfer, too.

Both of Aikau’s brothers recall fond memories of how they all surfed for the first time in Waikiki and how Eddie was an all-around stand-up guy.

“He was the guy that ran the fastest, the guy you couldn’t catch, the guy that played music better than everybody else … the guy with the bigger body,” said brother Clyde Aikau on Saturday.

Brother Solomon Aikau added with a laugh and smile, “I guess you can say the memory is, he was always the winner and we were the guys that always lost.”

For sister Myra Aikau, her fondest memories with Eddie are of growing up in a graveyard near Roosevelt High School and maintaining the land. She still lives on the property where she and her brothers grew up and said it remains the focal point for family gatherings.

When “Hawaiian” director Sam George and producer Paul Taublieb approached the Aikau family to tell Eddie’s story, they were humbled by the fact someone was interested in making a film about their brother who was lost at sea more than 30 years ago. Still, they knew the depth of his story needed to sail beyond Hawaii’s waters.

“People needed to know what Eddie was about — personality, heroism and kindness to the general public,” said Solomon Aikau.

Aikau Family photo. Front: Myra, Clyde, Eddie. Back: Solomon, Pops, Mom, Fred, Gerald. (Courtesy of The Eddie Aikau Foundation)

Aikau Family photo. Front: Myra, Clyde, Eddie. Back: Solomon, Pops, Mom, Fred, Gerald. (Courtesy of The Eddie Aikau Foundation)

THROUGHOUT THE film, you truly feel the pain of how a great life like Aikau’s was cut so short. However, the big wave rider left an indelible mark on the surfing community and island he loved so much.

“Eddie had dreams of being the first lifeguard on the North Shore,” Solomon Aikau said. “He also had dreams of riding the biggest waves in the world. He also had dreams of sailing on the Hokule‘a.

“Follow your dreams and strive to make it a reality. Nothing is a given or impossible to achieve.”

Surfing has been such a big part of the Aikau family and they believe surf film festivals like this one will continue to help tell the untold stories of people like Eddie and provide opportunities for people to learn about different cultures and surfing communities.

“Festivals (like this) show the diversity of surfing and the advancement of surfing,” said Solomon Aikau. “The different cultures like Italy, Japan, Switzerland, and so forth, involving themselves in surfing.”

“Hawaiian” takes viewers on a trip that allows them to experience the trials and tribulations of Eddie Aikau’s life. The fearless waterman helped many, from his heroic acts in Waimea Bay to mediating confrontational and tense situations amongst professional surfers. He truly embodied the spirit of aloha and simple Hawaiian living.

WITH CONTINUING donations, the memory of Eddie’s selfless giving continues through the Eddie Aikau Foundation. The foundation helps perpetuate his legacy and Hawaiian culture in hopes that future generations help keep the culture alive.

“We want people that receive help from the foundation to remember who they are and that they represent our Hawaiian culture,” said Solomon Aikau. “To give back when they can to their communities and to be proud of their heritage.”

Many on lookers flock to Waimea Bay every winter for the Quiksilver Eddie Aikau Competition to see if the massive waves hit monstrous heights. For the competition to take place, waves need to hit heights of 40 feet or more. Professional surfers from around the world come to ride some of the biggest waves of their lives to commemorate Eddie in the bay he kept safe for so many years.

Eddie’s famous red surfboard is on display at the Quiksilver store in Waikiki. Myra Aikau said her brother spent so much of his life living and protecting Hawaii’s waters that if he were still alive today, he would join his family in encouraging future generations to do the same.

“We live on an island and we are surrounded by water, so it’s natural for us to swim, bodyboard, boogie board and then eventually start surfing,” she said. “My brother would have wanted people to embody the spirit of aloha and to continually share it with others, to respect the land, the water and to preserve it. Surfing is one sport that can do that.”

The film always attracts large audiences and will only be shown twice more. Catch it at 1 p.m. Sunday and July 31 at Doris Duke Theatre.

OTHER FILMS that made it onto my watch list:

» “Mana The Film”: It starts off slow in the beginning but it’s fascinating to see what part of the ocean inspires many artists of different formats. The film takes you into the creative process of 10 Southern California artists as they create a collective exhibition in Kailua-Kona.

From traditional oil painting to digital production, the film fully explores the creativity process as well as gives you insight on the artist’s common denominator, surfing and how they intend to keep it intertwined in their art.

» “Stephanie In The Water”: This film gives inspiration to the female surfer in me. It takes you into the life of surfing champ Stephanie Gilmore and her impressive career. Being known as one of the best and for her aggressive style in the water means that you compete with the world’s best. Director Ava Warbrick captures the trials and tribulations of the pro surfer’s eagerness and determination to remain on top.

» “The Old, the Young & the Sea”: This film takes you the Atlantic coasts of France, Spain and Portugal. It truly shows that surfing goes beyond Hawaii’s waters and how many are trying their best to protect their coasts and sea life, as well as pass the knowledge on to future generations. It captures how people from different walks of life share a passion for the ocean and being one with nature in the rippling surf.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.


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