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The New Eddie Aikau Book Catches Monster 50-Foot Swell

This is one wave you shouldn’t miss.



Impeccably timed to coincide with a series of giant swells that may trigger the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational this weekend, Eddie Aikau: Hawaiian Hero debuted Tuesday—a small book crammed with intimate details and poignant family photos of a man whose legend looms ever larger with time. The Waimea Bay lifeguard, waterman and voyaging canoe crew member who lost his life going for help when the Hōkūle‘a foundered at sea, Aikau and his story are “even more timely now as the Hōkūle‘a is midway through her worldwide voyage,” says the book’s author, Stuart Coleman.


Published by Bess Press, Eddie Aikau is a visual and emotional experience, with photos from the family scrapbooks accompanied by a text pared down for maximum impact by Coleman, whose earlier book about Aikau, Eddie Would Go, was published in 2002. “We wanted to use a more art-intensive format,” Coleman explains, “with rare photos and highlights from his short yet epic life.  We live in a fast-paced, ADD culture, and I wanted to reach those who might not read a full biography but still want to know more about big-wave surfing, lifeguarding, Hawaiian culture and the Hōkūle‘a.  Most importantly, in this age of egomaniacal figures like Donald Trump, I think people are hungry to read about genuine heroes who stand for something other than themselves.”


The episodic style and caption-style writing may leave you wanting more, never a bad thing, and never scants the fascinating, at times tragic, destinies of Eddie and his brothers Clyde, Sol and Gerald, who died in a car crash shortly after Eddie’s wedding. The book also does an able job of communicating the sweep of the Hawaiian Renaissance that led Eddie to seek out the voyaging canoe as the logical step in his cultural and political awareness.


Eddie’s influence is now global, but remains local, thanks to the family’s efforts. The Eddie Aikau Foundation hosts an annual student essay contest for seventh-to-10th graders around the state. “Each year,” says Coleman, who is one of the contest’s judges, “I’m amazed how these young students are still motivated and inspired by his legacy. This past year, they wrote about Hōkūle‘a’s worldwide voyage and its mission to Mālama Honua (Care for the Planet). Based on the winning essays, it became clear that this younger generation is passionate about preserving Hawaiian culture, taking care of the environment and looking out for each other. 


“Eddie Aikau embodied those values, and, as the plaque on the Hōkūle‘a says, ’No greater love has a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’”


Eddie Aikau: Hawaiian Hero is available at besspress.com and various outlets for $14.95. 




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Honolulu Magazine February 2020
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