Eddie Aikau was not afraid of big waves. The Hawaiian lifeguard wouldn't give it a second thought to run into the surf with pounding waves that were 20 feet tall to make a rescue. Nor would he think twice about surfing those big waves.
Long before the likes of big-wave surfers Greg Long, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Mark Healey, and Garrett McNamara there was Aikau, legendary big-wave surfer and beloved lifeguard.
In 1969, Aikau was the first lifeguard hired by Honolulu to work on the North Shore. Not one life was lost at Waimea Bay while Aikau was on duty.
But his fame is tied to surfing where he won several awards and contests, including the 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship.
"Eddie Would Go" became a common refrain among surfers daring other surfers to take on the big surf. Eddie would go.
Those unfamiliar with surfing, and who aren't Hawaiian, might not know about the exciting life of Eddie, but ESPN is bringing the legend to its popular, Peabody award-winning film series "30 for 30."
"Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau" will kick off the new season on Tuesday, October 1 at 8 p.m. ET. Here's a trailer:
The accolades are abundant from those who knew him, as you can see in the trailer.
"He was just the brightest star out there."
"He couldn't have been more at ease on these gigantic waves. He looked like the perfect big-wave surfer."
"When he surfed, it was about that connection with the ocean."
Sadly, it was the ocean that took Aikau's life. Not from wiping out on a big wave, but setting out on his surfboard in an attempt to save lives.
Aikau had joined the crew on a traditional sailing canoe that set out on a 30-day, 2,500-mile journey following the ancient route of the Polynesian migration between the Hawaiian and Tahitian islands, according to the Eddie Aikau Foundation.
The Hokule'a departed the Hawaiian island on March 1, 1978, and capsized in stormy weather 12 miles south of the island of Molokai.
A commercial plane spotted the capsized boat and alerted the Coast Guard, which saved the crew. Alas, Aikau, 31, had already set out on his surfboard in an attempt to get help. He was never seen again.
Photos courtesy of ESPN.