Eddie Would Go: Surf Slang You Need to Know

“Eddie would go” is one of the most widely used phrases in surf culture, even four decades after the Eddie in question was last seen alive. What made this Eddie so special among the surfing community that his name would still be revered long after he was gone?

Read on to learn why this phrase still resonates among surfers worldwide and how it began with one humble yet wildly talented surfer, Eddie Aikau.

Eddie Aikau: Lifeguard, Surfer, Local Legend

 - Eddie would go - meaning
Eddie Aikau

Born in 1946 in Kahului, Maui, a Hawaiian island, Eddie Aikau would later move to O’ahu with his family and, as a teenager, began working in the Dole Pineapple cannery in the early 1960s. This was when Hawaii was still one of the world’s largest exporters of pineapples, and Eddie used his earnings from the job to purchase his first surfboard, which would ultimately change the trajectory of his life.

But it was not only Eddie’s life that would be changed by his love affair with the ocean—he saved hundreds of lives as Waimea Bay’s first lifeguard. Eddie would brave the waves to rescue surfers and swimmers in peril, no matter how high. His days as a lifeguard were unmarked by a single failure, having lost no lives during the time he watched over the seas.

Just as he found unmatched success as a lifeguard, Eddie was quietly developing his talent as a big wave surfer. He would reach the finals in the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship six times before winning the event in 1977.

Eddie Aikau was a humble and modest man whose passion was chasing the biggest waves and doing it for the thrill of it, not for awards and accolades. Only after he was gone did the masses truly recognize Eddie’s skill, and his influence on other surfers began to grow.

What Happened to Eddie Aikau?

Sadly, Eddie Aikau’s life was cut short and ended in tragedy, though perhaps fittingly, he spent his final moments in the waters he loved.

Eddie’s adventurous spirit was tested when he volunteered to go on a 30-day voyage with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, tracing a 2,500-mile route representing the ancient Polynesian migration journey. This route between the Hawaiian and Tahitian island chains was not for the faint of heart, and despite his incredible skills as a lifeguard and surfer, Eddie would not survive the journey.

The canoe Eddie was traveling in capsized after a leak, and he attempted to paddle to land on his surfboard, but Eddie would never make it to safety.

Did They Ever Find Eddie Aikau?

Eddie would go meaning, eddie aikau

The US Coast Guard Cutter Cape Corwin was able to rescue the other members of Eddie’s crew, but he was never found, and his body was not recovered, despite a massive air and sea search for him. His death is recorded as March 18, 1978, with remains never located at sea. Eddie left behind a wife, Linda Crosswhite, and a brother, Clyde, who would carry on Eddie’s legacy and love of North Shore surfing.

Who Said ‘Eddie Would Go’?

The popular surf culture phrase “Eddie Would Go” has been attributed to surfer Mark Foo, another legend in the surfing world. Foo chased big waves just as Eddie Aikau had before him and was once rescued by a helicopter after a 1986 North Shore excursion where onlookers noted the waves were over 6 feet. He later died in a tragic surfing accident in Half Moon Bay in California in 1994.

Foo was present for the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational in 1985, a big wave contest held to honor Eddie’s legacy. A stipulation of the event (which has been held 34 times and is lauded as the “Super Bowl of Surfing”) is that waves must be consistently 20 feet or higher, making it both a thrilling and dangerous surf competition.

At the 1985 event, organizers had some concerns about the 25-foot waves and debated whether or not to proceed. As the story goes, Mark Foo pushed them forward with three simple yet powerful words: “Eddie would go.”

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Waimea Bay surfers

What Does Eddie Would Go Mean?

“Eddie would go” is now a phrase used by surfers all across the globe to represent courage in the face of the unknown. It is a motto for those who chase big waves or any thrill seeker propelled by a sense of daring and adventure.

Eddie would go meaning

“Eddie would go” also represents the fighting spirit found in a man who braved the biggest waves to save others. It is an especially poignant saying for native Hawaiians, who remember the brave yet humble surfer and lifeguard and what he represents in their culture and heritage.

That legacy lives on in Eddie’s brother Clyde, who ultimately won the first Eddie Aikau Invitational (after a tiebreaker with Mark Foo).

Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing by Stuart Holmes Coleman digs deeper into the legacy of both the man and the indelible mark the saying has made on surf culture.

Eddie Sayings in Surf and Popular Culture

The influence of Eddie Aikau lives on in a number of other phrases well-known among the best surfers who chase big waves.

“Eddie Wouldn’t Crow” is used in the surfing and beach community as a reminder of this humble man who would not have bragged about his accomplishments. “Eddie Wouldn’t Tow” is used as a sort of purist statement against tow-in surfing, as Eddie was devoted to paddling into the surf.

“Eddie Would Hoe” links this native Hawaiian’s determination and spirit to some of the state’s agricultural outreach programs. Even the Honolulu Rail Transit project jumped on board with “Eddie Would Ride.”

Eddie Aikau’s spirit lives on in the surfing and beach community and among all Hawaiians who honor him as a man who saved lives, dared to chase the biggest waves, and did it all with great humility.

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