Maui Arts & Entertainment

Eddie “Would Go” Aikau and Nainoa Thompson to Receive Awards

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By Vanessa Wolf

Eddie Aikau. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Eddie Aikau. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

On Wednesday, June 12 at 8 p.m. the Maui Film Festival’s Celestial Cinema will air “Hawaiian: the Legend of Eddie Aikau.”

Shortly before the screening, the late Eddie Aikau – represented by his family – will receive the 2013 Maui Film Festival Visionary Award.

Nainoa Thompson, the developer and teacher of “wayfinding,” or non-instrument navigation, a system that synthesizes traditional principles of ancient Pacific navigation and modern science will be receiving the award as well.

Barry Rivers, Director of the event, commented, “The Maui Film Festival is deeply touched to have the privilege to present 2013 Visionary Awards, given previously to only H.H The 14th Dalai Lama, to both the Aikau ‘ohana in memory of Eddi Aikau and to Nainoa Thompson,” Said Rivers. “Both men have helped guide not only the mission of the Maui Film Festival, but even more importantly, people all over the world to navigate their personal life journeys in service to the great good.”

Aikau is one of the most respected names in surfing.


Born on Maui, Aikau later moved to O’ahu with his family in 1959. In 1968, he became the first lifeguard hired by the City & County of Honolulu to work on the North Shore. Not one life was lost while he served as lifeguard at Waimea Bay. Aikau braved surf that often reached 20 feet high or more to make a rescue.

Along with saving many lives, he become a well-known big-wave surfer, ultimately winning first place at the prestigious 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship.

The local saying, “Eddie Would Go,” refers to his willingness – if not enthusiasm – to take on big waves that other surfers would shy away from and his courage to make a rescue in impossible situations.

Aikau also became involved in perpetuating his Hawaiian heritage. In 1976, the Polynesian Voyaging Society sailed the Hokule’a on a successful 30-day, 2,500-mile journey following the ancient route of the Polynesian migration between the Hawaiian and Tahitian islands.

In 1978, a second voyage of the traditional sailing canoe was planned. Then 31, Aikau was selected for this voyage as a crew member.


The Hokule’a left the Hawaiian Islands on March 16, 1978. The double-hulled voyaging canoe developed a leak in one of the hulls and later capsized in stormy weather about 12 miles south of the island of Molokai.

In an attempt to get to land to save his crew and the Hokule’a, Aikau paddled toward Lanai on his surfboard. Hours later, a commercial airplane spotted the Hokule’a and the rest of the crew were soon rescued by the US Coast Guard, but Aikau was missing at sea.

Despite extensive search efforts he was never seen again.

Nainoa Thompson. Photo courtesy University of Hawaii.

Nainoa Thompson. Photo courtesy University of Hawaii.

Nainoa Thompson has inspired and led a revival of the traditional arts associated with long-distance ocean voyaging in Hawaiʻi and throughout Polynesia for 35 years.

The last navigators to practice his way-finding system were voyagers in the 14th century.


Thompson continues to develop and implement a multidisciplinary, culturally relevant educational program focused on teaching Hawaiian children the values of Polynesian voyaging.

The program emphasizes both traditional and modern scientific knowledge about the environment, and stresses the importance of eco conservation of resources and a sustainable future for the state and the planet itself.

Thompson has already received numerous community awards, including 2012’s Unsung Hero of Compassion, which was awarded by the Dalai Lama on behalf of the organization Wisdom in Action; and the Native Hawaiian Education Association’s Manomano Ka ʻIke (Depth and Breadth of Knowledge) Educator of the Year Award.

The documentary film “Hawaiian: the Legend of Eddie Aikau,” narrated by Josh Brolin will air after the awards presentation, followed by “Islands of Sanctuary” at 10 p.m. Tickets are $22.

Have an idea for a fun or thought-provoking story or topic? Get in touch: we want to hear from you. -Vanessa (

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