Although we’ll have to wait at least another year to watch the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, it’s important to remember that there is more to the event than the allure of courageous surfers charging colossal waves.
The competition bears the name of one of Hawaii’s most uniquely important people in modern history, a surfing pioneer who became a symbol hope, aloha, and Hawaiian pride. The selflessness and courage Aikau embodied throughout his life and in his death continues to inspire people in Hawaii and around the world to this day.
We talked to Nainoa Thompson, renowned waterman and personal friend of Aikau, about the significance of The Eddie.
KHON2: In what ways is The Eddie an educational platform?
Nainoa Thompson: The Eddie event helps us to remember and to celebrate who Eddie Aikau is and what he stood for. He stood for all the good things that makes us Hawaiian to him and all the good things that are important to humanity. And so, it’s like no other surfing event. His legacy and story reminds us how to be the best as human beings and because of that we remember what he’s done and what his family has done.
His brothers and sister have created so many platforms of education that help Hawaii. They touch the lives of young people in Hawaii and in the Pacific and around the world. And what his life gives to these young people is immeasurably important, especially to the Hawaiian child. It gives them a story of excellence, a story of heroism, a story of being the best big wave rider and ocean lifeguard, which translates into removing the stigma and the inappropriate prejudices about the identity and the definition of what it is to be Hawaiian and replaces it with pride, dignity, respect and hope.
Eddie, because of that, becomes one of Hawaii’s great teachers even after all these years, and there’s no reason to say that it wont go on forever. So the surfing event is one event of the many things that allows us to take a moment to understand what it is to be human, and it also helps us understand and gives us hope that a single individual can change the world by who they are, where they come from and what they believe in. That’s Eddie’s story, and therefore there’s no other surfing event that comes anywhere close to the dignity and honor that is the foundation of the event.
How does an event like The Eddie help bring focus on other non-surfing aspects of Hawaiian culture?
I think that Eddie’s legacy and the event just focuses on how important it is for us to lead into the future from the values and the history and the heritage of Hawaiian culture. Eddie’s life and the event are a powerful contribution to that. Rarely will you find any person or event more impactful in terms of bringing pride and dignity and hope to young Hawaiians. No other person does it more than Eddie. Therefore, that pride and dignity really is the foundation you have to have in place for young Hawaiians to have these real heroes, and the idea that they could be Eddie, too. Eddie is navigating the future and the lives of young people simply because they know that they are proud to be Hawaiian because of someone like him.
Eddie Aikau is an iconic surfer, an ambassador of Hawaii, and an enduring symbol of hope for people around the world. 41 years after his death, how would you describe his legacy? How is his life and influence still relevant today?
41 years later, and there is an event that millions of people across the world are waiting to be a part of. And in this event he’s touched millions of people across the planet in a way that no other can do. Goes to show who he was. For me personally, Eddie is the one who is the shining light in the storm, that for me, helps me find courage when I’m most afraid. He is the one who helps shine the light to help find a way out of the storms that we live in, in a changing world. He is the inspiration, and the story, no matter how difficult we need to keep voyaging. Eddie’s legacy and story is carried on every mile that we sail Hokulea. Eddie is always on board to help us find the destinations that we seek.
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