Legend – Hawaii

“He was on a boat, called the Hoku. They were sailing from Lanai to Owahu. On the way there, they hit bad weather and got lost off course. He was a waterman and a big surfer. He jumped off and paddled to the nearest island to find help. BUT, they never found him. A day later a helicopter found the boat. Now they say “Eddie would go”. He became a legend. On bumper stickers and stuff it’d say, Eddie would go. Made contest in his honor: Eddie Aikau Invitational. The waves have to be at least 25 ft or else they won’t have it. The whole Island shuts down and goes to the Eddie. It went once for 6 years without having it because the conditions were not right.”


Collin Evans was born and raised in Hawaii. He grew up on the main island and attended Hawaiian school all his life. He recently moved to California to attend the University of Southern California to major in Mechanical engineering.

Collin remembers this story from when he was very young. He says “its just something you know. All Hawaiians know it.” This true story has become a legend: Did Eddie really make it to an island or not? Collin, a surfer himself, respects Eddie abilities as a renowned surfer as well as his courage and compassion for others. The phrase “Eddie would go” not only pay tribute to the great surfer, but can be also said if “someone chickens out of a wave.” Collin, like all Hawaiians, recognizes the noble act and that is the reason why he is celebrated. He was young and could have won many more surfing competitions, but died unnecessarily.

Studying the breakdown of events in the Eddie Aikau story reveals unique characteristics that proved reason for its mass appeal and his permanent place in history. His story follows a standard archetype of a hero. He is a person from “humble beginnings… [who] masters a particular skill…saves man/uplifts them from despair… [then] vanishes or dies tragically…leaving his absence open to interpretation” (definition of a mythic hero by MythicHero.com) It is almost uncanny how closely the story of Eddie Aikua follows these guidelines, The storyshows Eddie Aikau had a good heart and was a good person. In a world full of violence and danger, it is reassuring to know there is still good people left. Eddie is an ideal role model for young kids growing up, like Collin, for he promotes a good image. He was not the typical athlete that could have a negative influence on the youth of society.

Stuart Holmes Coleman wrote a novel, “Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero,” published by Bess Press in October 2002, which includes interviews from friends and people onboard the vessel with Eddie during the storm. The tragic story is told (pg. 119 and bits and pieces in the introduction), describing Eddie humble life and all his accomplishments.


Some background information on Eddie is that in 1968 he became the first lifeguard hired by the City of Honolulu to work on the North Shore. Eddie was known for rescuing people in waves reaching well over 20 feet; his reputation impeccable for not a single life was lost during his time served. As mentioned earlier he was also an amazing surfer, winning the 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship. “Eddie Would Go,” was actually first coined for his ability to take on big waves that other surfers would normally back down from and his courage to make rescues in treacherous waters. He died trying to save his fellow shipmates in 1978.

I find it interesting that Staurt Holmes Coleman has taken this new piece of folklore and published it, making a profit off the iconic figure. Throughout history there have been incorporations of folklore in copyrighted music, movies, book, and other materials. Even Shakespeare utilized folklore in many of his distinguished and celebrated plays. This is another example of copyrighted folklore, except this time the copyright came extremely close to the tragedy, only about 35 year afterwards. In a way, I feel this has canonized the Idea of Eddie Aikau. It will halt new folklore and stories about Eddie, since there is a “the true story” already published.

Eddie Aikau riding a wave.