With fingers, arms, legs and toes all crossed – I had half a dozen browsers open with updates about The Eddie Aikau Surf Invitational Wednesday.

For the celebrated event to go on, a delicate balance of surf and weather conditions are required. The most crucial – a minimum of 20-foot wave heights (40-foot faces) to come crashing down on Oahu’s North Shore.

Since the the tournament began in 1985, Mother Nature has only cooperated eight times. While I waited to hear about lucky number nine, I called Stuart Coleman, author of the award-winning book, “Eddie Would Go,” to hear what he thought about the potential of this year’s event.

From the start of the call, Stuart sounded optimistic, “I’m hoping it will go off. The winds backed down and the conditions could be great. But even with all the satellite technology, George Downing (executive director of the Eddie) said it best – the bay calls the day!”

If the bay calls, I’m going to be there. I’ll be sharing the scene through a live blog with photos, videos and stories throughout the day. If you’re headed up to Waimea please send me your images and experiences. We’ll be sure to publish the best ones with the proper attribution. Send your Eddie captures to dzelikman@civilbeat.com.

Here are some excerpts from my conversation with Stuart to get you excited – for what could be yet another epic Eddie.

Why did you choose to pursue a book about Eddie Aikau? What drew you to his story?

A lot of people focus on the surfing, which is fascinating – but what was interesting to me was that Eddie was a local hero and a Hawaiian icon. He was a life guard who would risk his life for others. Even when the lifeguard captains would say, it’s too dangerous, don’t go – Eddie would go.

Stuart said Aikau represented the renaissance in Hawaii in the 1970s, a time when people became enthusiastic about Hawaiian culture. He said a lot of that can be attributed to the Hokulea as well, a traditional Hawaiian open-ocean canoe.

The power of the Hokulea can’t be underestimated when talking about Eddie Aikau. It represents the the beauty of the culture and some of the greatest navigators in the world sailing the ocean using only the stars.

After the Hokulea capsized and Eddie was never seen again, a lot of people wanted to retire the canoe. ‘Take it to the museum, it’s too dangerous,’ they said. But it was Nainoa Thompson, (executive director of the Polynesian Voyaging Society) who said that if we wanted to honor Eddie properly, that we needed to fix this canoe, raise the money and pursue the voyage again. It was in 1980 when the Hokulea sailed again and Nainoa recalled feeling Eddie’s presence in the sea.

What do you think the story will be about this year?

It’s become an international sensation with surfers coming from around the world. That’s exciting – to know that people across the globe will be watching on the web. There are extreme sports out there that have a following because of the element of danger, but the Eddie is about so much more. Sure there’s danger, but it’s mixed in with honoring an icon and celebrating the Hawaiian culture. That what makes it unique.

Who do you want to win?

It would be nice to see someone outside the states win, to extend the story of the Eddie even further. Or maybe Eddie’s brother Clyde, it would be great to see him win again.

Will you be watching from the beach?

I will be teaching a class at 3 p.m. that day, but I’m hoping to catch it in the morning. If you’re not up there by 7 a.m. you’re too late – traffic is all you’ll be watching. But the coverage is so great I wouldn’t mind having it on during class either. It’s amazing to see how far the event has grown.

I remember the first Eddie I attended in 1999. I was in the middle of writing the book and it was New Year’s Day. I remember walking up to the cliff and seeing thousands of people and I thought wow – these are gladiators competing in this giant blue arena. I knew the world needed to see this event and hear Eddie’s story.

Do you think Eddie would go to an event like this?

Stuart laughs. He recalled talking to friends of Eddie who would tell stories of how he never liked a crowd.

“Sure Eddie would go – home. Eddie wasn’t a fan of crowds and publicity. He was actually quite shy.”


If it goes off, the event will be broadcast live on KWHE-TV 14-Oceanic Cable 11, Oceanic Digital Channels 1250 and 250.

To find out more about the Eddie Aikau Surf Invitational and its history, visit the site dedicated to the event here.

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About the Author

  • Dan Zelikman
    Dan Zelikman – Marketing/Community Host As the Community Host at Civil Beat, Dan is fully engaged with the readers on the site. He is responsible for pushing content through multiple media platforms while discussing the different issues with Civil Beat readers. From answering questions to sharing opinions, Dan is responsible for Civil Beat's voice in the community – both online and off. Dan is also tasked with Civil Beat's digital marketing efforts. From analyzing web data to promoting content, Dan uses technology to understand what Civil Beat readers enjoy reading most. Between the data and the responses, Civil Beat tries to apply that feedback to become better every day. Dan was born in NY and has studied around the globe in parts of New England, Sweden and Australia. Dan loves exploring Hawaii – and when he’s not blogging about his adventures you can find him surfing waves, climbing mountains, and hiking off the beaten path. Dan thinks that "board meetings" are meant for the water.

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