The sea begins to mount, a ribbon of movement approaching you, the water giving rise to a natural beast. You decide this is the one. You drive your palms, then your forearms, deeper into the sea beneath you, the surfboard advancing toward the shore, your body simply an entity involved in its journey. Then, you stop, and the billow of water below your body, savage yet forbearing, takes over. Somehow, without realizing the communication between your brain and limbs, you are standing. The board plunges toward the wave’s trough, your toes gripping the remnants of wax, your vehicle to maintain body and soul. You glide down the thirty-foot face with a hopefulness and fearfulness, for each second is unforeseeable. But, you choose. With hope, you may succeed. With fear, you may fail. The North Shore of Hawaii summons skill, no doubt, but its demand for bravery is far greater. And those who choose hope over fear are those who we remember.
The Lost and Found Collection carries the images of some of the most honored surfers that the North Shore ever spit out, an aura of audaciousness and valiance radiating from each photograph. These surfers committed their lives to the unpredictability of big-wave riding, but with their prowess and temerity they flourished. It took one ride of indescribable ecstasy to leave these guys feeling invincible and hungry for more. While a thirty-foot descent can seem far-fetched for many, it was purely compelling for the North Shore legends. Most of these surfers are still around to share their memories of the seventies and beyond, stoked and completely nostalgic to reminisce about the Lost and Found photographs. Nonetheless, surfing has lost some of its most influential and personable icons, those whose bravery vanquished fear, and we’re here to reminisce about them and the impact they’ve had on surfing history.
Eddie Aikau was one of the greatest and most respected surfers on the North Shore whose charisma and artistry transcended all expectations. Born in Maui in 1946, Eddie later moved to Oahu in 1959, and it wasn’t until 1968 that he became the first lifeguard to work on the North Shore. With his strength and spirit, it wasn’t surprising that not one life was lost during his service in Waimea Bay. He was the kind of selfless person to defy monstrous waves to rescue others. His resilience in the ocean allowed Eddie to become one with the waves and conquer some of the greatest surfing competitions, such as the 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship where he won first place. With a deep respect for his Hawaiian heritage, Eddie joined a 2500-mile voyage to follow the Polynesian migration between Hawaii and Tahiti in 1978. The traditional sailing canoe capsized in a severe storm and Eddie paddled on his surfboard toward Lanai in order to retrieve help and save his crew. Unfortunately, it was on this journey that Eddie was lost at sea. Today, Eddie is recognized as one of the greatest symbols of the aloha spirit. The phrase “Eddie would go” was quickly born, referring to Aikau’s fearlessness and willingness to confront life’s obstacles. He would go where no one else would. He would go for the betterment of others.
Montgomery Kaluhiokalani was born in 1958, growing up in Honolulu and known by the locals as “Buttons.” By the time he was nine years old, Buttons felt a strong beckoning to surfing and after his first few successful rides at Queens in Waikiki, he knew he was destined to be in the water. Riding with the big guns, like Reno Abellira and Barry Kanaiaupuni, Buttons secured headlines with his serious skills in notable competitions. By 1975, with little interest in school and a spirited craving to dwell in the waves, Buttons had a promising chance to surf professionally. Buttons’ unpredictable style on short, single-fin boards caught the world by surprise. Onlookers would consistently describe him as the most colorful surfer in the water, for both his external semblance and internal force of personality. Unfortunately, Buttons slipped into the precarious realm of drugs, but later found peace with himself and recognized his instabilities. This past November in 2013, Buttons sadly passed from an ongoing battle with lung cancer. He will forever be remembered for his incredible influence on the surfing world, but also his remarkable influence on those around him. His fearlessness has left a mark on his loved ones, but also on those who had never met him. In an interview for SURFER, Buttons had said, ““I was doing stuff I couldn’t even dream of doing. I did some crazy things. But you know, brah, I just did stuff that felt good.” And that’s how we should all live: without fear, doing the things that make us happy.
It may seem frightening or hair-raising to drop thirty plus feet. It may seem difficult to maintain balance while moving nearly twenty miles per hour on a delicate sheet of fiberglass, your feet upon the wax the only means of contact. But, that feeling of fright or postulation of difficulty is truly your one obstacle. Yes, you need skill, but you can only achieve skill once you shed yourself of fear. And, if you haven’t realized by now, this isn’t just about surfing. Legends like Eddie Aikai and Buttons Kaluhiokalani can inspire us in all facets of life. Their bravery and courage are universally applicable, and it’s simply our responsibility to learn from their gallant spirits to create our own.