HAWAIIAN: THE LEGEND OF EDDIE AIKAU

Directed by Sam George

Director Sam George chronicles the remarkable life and times of the late Eddie Aikau, the legendary Hawaiian big wave surfer, pioneering lifeguard and ultimately doomed crew member of the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea. Trailer Video  The Vault Video  Dir. statement Video Waimea Bay Video  Q&A with Director » 
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About Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau

Film Summary

I got the call from Jeff Divine, the venerable surf photographer and photo editor of The Surfers Journal in San Clemente, California.

"Hey Sam, Jeff said. I was cleaning out my garage, going through some stuff and found something you might be interested in.

Jeff knew that at the time I was producing and directing a documentary film about the life and times of Eddie Aikau, the iconic Hawaiian waterman best known for the namesake big wave event held in his honor at Waimea Bay and the even more iconic bumper sticker Eddie Would Go. Profiling a character like Eddie Aikau was proving to be a challenge, the old adage of when choosing between the truth and the legend, always print the legend firmly in mind as something not to do here. Aikau, who died in a rescue attempt following the capsizing of the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea in 1978, is one of the best-known, least known figure in surfing history. 28 years of The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave riding event at Waimea has seen to that, as has the ubiquitous bumper sticker. But aside from those sincerely respectful but ultimately promotional acknowledgments, the surfing world knew very little about Eddie Aikau: in the 35 years since his death no major surf publication had ever run an Aikau profile. It was as if the surf media was satisfied with letting Quiks ads and promotional material establish and maintain Eddies legacy. The trouble with that was that Quiksilver, however well meaning, couldnt find much to work with. Apparently only a handful of Aikau images seemed to existover the past two and a half decades the same three or four photos appeared on posters and adswhile very little had been added to the standard narrative. Aikau, the top young Hawaiian big wave rider who became King of the Bay, Waimeas first lifeguard, and doomed crew member of the Hokulea, which in March of 1978 capsized in heavy seas off Molokai while attempting to sail to Tahiti. That was about all anybody seemed to know about Eddie Aikauall anybody seemed to need to know about Eddie. But if I were really going to bring Eddies story to life, to go beyond the posters and bumper stickers, Id need more.

Which is why I drove right down to The Surfers Journal office to meet with Jeff Divine, who would not have called me if he had not found something great. And great it was. While cleaning out a old box in his garage Jeff had discovered the contents of the desk hed sat at when working as the photo editor of Surfer Magazine over 20 years ago. One item was a cassette tape that, according to Jeff, had arrived at Surfer in 1976 but had never been listened to. Written on the tape, faded now, were four names: Eddie, Clyde, Kimo, Bradshaw. We scrounged up an old boom box from the warehouse (who has a cassette deck these days?) popped in the old tape and stood back in wonder. Here was Eddie Aikau and Clyde Aikau, being interviewed by equally legendary Hawaiian big wave rider Kimo Hollinger (with assistance from a young Ken Bradshaw) about the upcoming 1976 North Shore pro season. Most notably what the Hawaiian reception would be like for the returning Aussie pros like Rabbit Bartholomew and Ian Cairns, who, following their triumphant performances the previous winter, were the current media darlings.

The Australians are good surfers, good, came the voice of Eddie Aikau, eerie now, as if from the other side of the grave. We are good. But they brag, Kimo, they brag. They brag too much, man. And this year, man, theres gonna be fights. Theres going to be fights.

Clyde tries to interject, but Eddie goes on, But I dont want to fight nobody. Shit, I dont want to fight.

And listening to those words, spoken so wistfully by the young Hawaiian, I knew I had my movie. Because with those words Eddie Aikau proved himself to be a real hero. Oh, he proved it in other, more obvious ways. With more than 10 years in the lifeguard tower at Waimea Bay, making over 500 rescues with no loss of life on his watch. And the manner in which he died, paddling against all odds in an attempt to save his stricken Hokulea crewmates. But it was those words of Eddies, never heard by anyone else until this moment, that put the hook into me. Remember what did happen that winter, when Rabbit Bartholomew arrived on the North Shore only to be summarily beaten up and banished by angry Hawaiian locals. How he and Ian Cairns had received death threats; how theyd holed up in their condos, fearful to show their faces. How the entire future of professional surfing hung in the balance. And how just as the crisis teetered out of control, it was Eddie Aikau, as fiercely proud a Hawaiian as has ever ridden a wave, who took matters into his own hands, personally organizing a hooponopono. In Hawaiian custom a hooponopono is a family meeting where both sides air their grievances, express their contrition, and come to a peaceful agreement. This Eddie did for the Aussies, even though stung through and through by their nationalistic braggadocio and in opposition of his own people. Eddie stepped up and was the peacemaker. He cared enough about what he felt was right to take that step. Again he put himself in jeopardy for somebody else.

That, more than any big wave that he ever rode, is what made Eddie Aikau a true hero.

And that was my movie.

Sam George

As both a former senior editor for Surfing magazine and former editor-in-chief of SURFER magazine Sam George, 57, has been writing about the sport for over 30 years and is acknowledged as one of the sports leading experts. George has written and/or directed a number of acclaimed surfing documentaries, including the Sundance hit Riding Giants, Pipeline Masters, The Lost Wave: An African Surf Story and Hollywood Dont Surf, which premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Sams latest documentary Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau, premiered at the 2013 Tri Beca Film Festival and in October 2013 will screen as part of ESPNs prestigious 30 for 30 documentary series. It most recently won two major audience awards at the Maui International Film Festival, including The Movie That Mattered Most.

Sam has written and edited more than half a dozen books on the subject of surfing, including Surfing: A Way Of Life (1992), Surfing (1994), Tom Blake: Surfing 1922-1932, The Perfect Day: 40 Years of SURFER Magazine (2001 Surf Life (2003). SURFER 50 (2010) and The Big Juice (2011).

Between film projects Sam works guiding international surf trips and since July 2008 has led an innovative academic expedition to the remote islands off West Sumatra where he taught a fully accredited university journalism course to eight lucky surfer/students. Those waters are familiar to him, Sam having sailed on a series of dramatic humanitarian relief missions following the devastating Indonesian earthquake and tsunami in 2004.

One of the sports most well-traveled surfers, Sam has explored the coastlines of over 40 countries, riding waves on every continent save Antarctica. On one of his latest adventures he rode waves near the Arctic Circle on the north coast of Iceland.

A former professional competitor Sam was also one of the pioneers of stand-up paddle surfing and is currently the Senior Editor of SUP Magazine. He still competes in various stand-up paddle surf races, accruing a number of age group victories.

Purchase

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