Born in Kahului, Maui, Aikau was the third child of Solomon and Henrietta Aikau. The words Makua Hanai in Eddie Aikau's full name meant feeding parent, an adoptive, nurturing, fostering parent, in the Hawaiian language. He was a descendant of Hewahewa, the kahuna nui (high priest) of King Kamehameha I and his successor Kamehameha II. Aikau first learned how to surf at Kahului Harbor on its shorebreak. He moved to Oʻahu with his family in 1959, and at the age of 16 left school and started working at the Dole pineapple cannery; The paycheck allowed Aikau to buy his first surfboard. In 1968, he became the first lifeguard hired by the City & County of Honolulu to work on the North Shore. The City & County of Honolulu gave Aikau the task of covering all of the beaches between Sunset and Haleiwa. Not one life was lost while he served as lifeguard of Waimea Bay, as he braved waves that often reached 30 feet (9. 1 m) high or more. In 1971, Aikau was named Lifeguard of the Year.
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