In 1968, he became the first lifeguard hired by the city and county of Honolulu to work the North Shore. Not only was Eddie the first, but he was given the task of covering every beach from Sunset to Haleiwa (which is about a five mile stretch). During his time as lifeguard, not one life was lost in Waimea Bay, as he braved waves that often reached 30 feet high or more. He was even named lifeguard of the year in 1971.
In 1978 (when he was 31), Eddie joined the crew of a 30-day, 2500 mile journey to follow the ancient route of the Polynesian migration between the Hawaiian and Tahitian island chains. While on the voyage, the double-hulled voyaging canoe developed a leak in one of the hulls and later capsized about twelve miles south of the island of Molokai. Trying to help, Eddie set out toward Lanai paddling on his surfboard. The rest of the crew was later rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, but Eddie was never seen again. The ensuing search for him was the largest air-sea search in Hawaii history.
Sometime during the 80's, bumper stickers and t-shirts started springing up all around Hawaii and the rest of the world with the phrase "Eddie Would Go" on them. According to maritime historian Mac Simpson, "Aikau was a legend on the North Shore, pulling people out of waves that no one else would dare to. That's where the saying came from -- Eddie would go, when no else would or could. Only Eddie dared."
I feel like, possibly in preparation for what may soon come, God brought this story to my mind today.
There are times in life when God calls us to things that are bigger than what we can do on our own. Things that, were we to try and understand from our own Earthly perspective, we would never attempt (mainly out of fear or ignorance). It's during these times that we have to remember that God never intends for us to do what He calls us to by ourselves. No, He much rather prefers that we graft ourselves onto Him and, through His strength, attempt to accomplish what only He could.
I don't know what Eddie Aikau's relationship with God was like. But I do know that he faced down wave after wave (literally) of discouragement, and went out every time to save lives. I can't help but see the spiritual parallels in his story. As those of you in ministry undoubtedly know, discouragement can come easily. Sometimes, it can feel like a never ending storm is batting you down. It's in those times that we must remember to turn to God. And sometimes, that kind of faith takes courage.
I love that Eddie's legacy is that he gave his life to save the lives of others. I love that, on his memorial plaque, is John 15:13. I love that he was brave.
I want to be brave. I want to be known as someone who recklessly follows God, even when he should be afraid. I want to be the kind of guy who lays his life down for his friends. That's what Eddie Aikau represents to me.
So, in times of fear, I'll remember that "Eddie Would Go". And hopefully, I will too...