Eddie Aikau by Jeff Divine
Eddie Aikau, 1946-78
The epitome of a man at the top of the world, Eddie Aikau at Sunset Beach, circa early '70s. And while his name will be forever linked to Waimea Bay, it was at Sunset in the late '60s and early '70s where Aikau rose to acclaim.
Waimea Bay, circa early 1970s
A man at home in his element. A lifeguard, surfer, paddler, diver, an all-around waterman, Aikau never felt more comfortable than when the North Pacific was unloading on Waimea Bay, and more than 30 years after his death, he's still remembered as such.
Surfing Pipe used to be more of a purists' pursuit, but in '71, Aikau and others took part in the original "Expression Session," and thus the bar was set. Conceived to be the antithesis of competitive surfing, the format is still utilized today.
Sunset Beach, 1971
Between '66 and '74, Aikau made the final of the Duke Kahanamoku Classic six times, and in '71, he finished fifth at the Smirnoff Invitational at Waimea, where the surf reached record proportions. And when it was happening at Sunset, he was untouchable.
Pops Aikau & Fred Hemmings
Without Pops Aikau, and probably without Fred Hemmings, there is no legend of Eddie Aikau, because for every heroic feat or big wave ridden, Eddie depended upon the virtue instilled by his father and the format provided by Hemmings.
Duke Kahanamoku Classic, 1977
A year before he tragically drowned, just as prize money and sponsorship dollars were starting to trickle into surfing, Aikau won the '77 Duke Kahanamoku Classic at Sunset, beating future world champ Mark Richards in the final.
Sunset Beach, 1977
How could you miss Aikau out on a day like this? Signature board and trunks, and of course he'd be the guy taking off deeper than everybody else. Even today there are few who challenge the demanding lineup like he did.
Sunset Beach Parking Lot
For the early comers to pro surfing, there were few things more intimidating than the Hawaiian season. The surf was big, powerful and unruly, and the locals weren't exactly welcoming visitors with open arms. Then there was Aikau, ever the ambassador.
Sunset Beach, 1976
Before the crowds, before the media swarms, before the Web beamed out carnage in real time, Aikau and his band of North Shore pioneers challenged Hawaii's biggest surf for no other reason than that was simply what they did, and that's reason to celebrate.