Eddie Would Go documentary set to open Maui’s film festival


Eddie Would Go to opening night at this year’s Maui Film Festival at Wailea.

The premiere of “Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau” will screen at 8 p.m. June 12 at the festival’s Celestial Cinema on the Wailea Gold & Emerald Golf Course, Festival Director Barry Rivers announced this morning.

The film, directed by Sam George and produced by TAUBLIEB Films and Paul Taublieb, uses interviews, dynamic historic footage and re-enactments to chronicle the heroic life and mysterious disappearance of the pioneering lifeguard, big-wave surfer and iconic waterman behind the phrase “Eddie Would Go.” The production is part of ESPN’s acclaimed “30 for 30” series, a collection of 30 documentaries in honor of the network’s 30th anniversary.

George, Taublieb and Aikau’s brothers, Clyde and Sol, and sister, Myrna, will attend the screening.

Aikau was born in Kahului and learned to surf in Kahului Harbor before moving with his family to Oahu at age 16. There he became the first lifeguard hired to work on the North Shore covering the beaches from Sunset to Haleiwa. Braving waves that could reach 30 feet, he never lost a victim and was named lifeguard of the year in 1971.

He also was legendary for surfing those waves and inspired an ongoing big-wave North Shore surfing competition in his name, sponsored by Quicksilver. In 1978, at age 31, he joined the Polynesian Voyaging Society crew for a voyage retracing ancient migration routes between Tahiti and Hawaii aboard the sailing canoe Hokule’a. After the boat developed a leak and capsized off Molokai and Lanai, Aikau set off on his surfboard for help. The rest of the crew were eventually rescued by the Coast Guard, but Aikau was never found despite a huge air-sea search.

The motto “Eddie Would Go,” immortalized on posters, bumper stickers and T-shirts, was originally coined at one of the Quicksilver competitions, referring to the bravery need to go into huge surf.

It has become a motto of cultural inspiration for the islands.

“There’s a reason we called our film ‘Hawaiian,’ ” said George, former Surfing magazine editor, in a news release. “Eddie Aikau’s story is the story of Hawaii, embodied by a remarkable man, a remarkable family and a remarkable people. Eddie said it best when, only months before his tragic death, he won the prestigious Duke Kahanamoku Surfing Classic. ‘All for the Hawaiians,’ he said, with tears in his eyes. ‘I did it all for the Hawaiians.’ So did we.”

“It is an honor to be granted the privilege of presenting the Hawaii premiere of this powerful documentary showcasing the incredible life of Eddie Aikau and his tremendous life’s work,” said Rivers. “My family came to Hawaii 35 years ago in the midst of this indigenous culture experiencing a vibrant rebirth, and our move touched and shaped the Rivers family for years to come. Presenting this film completes a circle of respect and appreciation that all of us in the Maui Film Festival ‘ohana has for Hawaii, its values and its statewide ‘ohana.”

An opening-night Twilight Reception will precede the film screening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Capische? in the Hotel Wailea. The festival will continue with screenings in Wailea and at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, as well as parties, food events, filmmaker panels and other events throughout Wailea Resort through June 16.

The festival plans to announce other filmmaking luminaries who will be honored this year in weeks to come.

For tickets, passes and more information, visit or call 572-3456.

* Rick Chatenever, now retired, is the former editor of Maui Scene.