Surfing & Leadership

Waimea Bay Shorebreak, N. Shore, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
Waimea Bay Shorebreak, N. Shore, Oahu, Hawaii, USA

Today we all thought ‘the Eddie’ was a go and that the waves on Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu would hit the 40 foot (2o by Hawaiian standards) height for 8 hours, which is the requirement for the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave competition. In the 31 years, the event has only happened 8 times because ‘the bay calls the day’ and if the waves aren’t right it doesn’t happen. As the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay, Eddie saved over 500 people and became famous for big wave surfing. In 1978, he was lost at sea while trying to paddle to Lanai, attempting to get help for crewmates aboard the Hokule’a, a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, that capsized in rough seas en route on a volunteer trip to explore the 2,500 miles between the Hawaiian Islands and Tahiti. He’d pulled his life vest off, probably because it was hindering his paddling, and was never seen again.

What does this have to do with leadership? The motto of ‘the Eddie’ is “Eddie Would Go” because Aikau would hit the big wave surf when no one else would go out. Same reason he got lost at sea. He paddled to try to save the crew which ultimately resulted in his unfortunate demise. In sport and in business, leaders have to take that opportunity to go when no one else will. Leaders take that leap based on the best information and sometimes they fail. But what if they didn’t fail? That’s why it’s so important to push beyond your comfort level.

I love to watch the big waves  from the beach and could do so all day long. I love the skill and the fearlessness these surfers display in the waves. As a spectator, I’m hoping they can hang on the edge and get that perfect ride. I think that’s why I love even paddling out and waiting beyond the break. I’m just happy I got out there and can feel the peace of the ocean. I do prefer to try to catch a small wave and often I fail with missed timing or losing my balance, but when I finally get one small ride, I can’t tell you how great it feels.  When I’m feeling uncertain in whatever situation I find myself in, I’m going to try to remember the mantra that ‘Eddie Would Go’ and see what I can accomplish from there.






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