You may have noticed on your daily voyage through the stormy seas of the internet that Google’s logo changes every now and then. They’re called Google Doodles, and they celebrate various things like holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers, and scientists. Well, guess who’s on the docket? None other than Eddie Aikau. May 4 is the day Eddie would have turned 73, and Google is running their latest doodle through the weekend in honor of him.
The idea for Google Doodles was around before Google was even incorporated. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin first came up with it as a sort of “Gone Fishin'” sign to let users know they were out of the office. They were deep in the Nevada Desert, coating their teeth with dust at the Burning Man Festival, so they threw a little stick man behind the second O. And thus, the Google Doodle was born. Since then, they’ve used the Google Doodle to celebrate notable events from the anniversary of the ice cream sundae to Hugh Masekela’s birthday (yes, Sal’s dad).
You, of course, know the story of Eddie Aikau, but let’s recap. Born on Maui, his family moved to Oahu when he was a teenager. He took to Waimea Bay like a duck to water and quickly gained the reputation as pretty much the best waterman anyone had ever seen. He was appointed lifeguard of the beaches between Sunset and Haleiwa, and according to legend, in his nine-year tenure as protector of the hallowed coastline, he attempted over 500 rescues, none of which failed.
But his story truly fell into the legend category when Eddie Aikau got on board the Hokule’a. “In 1978, a 31-year-old Eddie, weathered but energetic as always, joined the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s 30-day, 2,500-mile journey from Hawaii through the Tahitian island chains, following the route once taken by then-Polynesian migrants,” wrote Michael Woodsmall. “An homage down to the watercraft, the manned 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 about twelve miles (19 km) south of the island of Molokai. In an attempt to get help, Aikau paddled toward Lanai on his surfboard. Although the rest of the crew was later rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cape Corwin, Aikau was never seen again. He removed his life jacket since it was hindering his paddling of the surfboard. The ensuing search for Aikau was the largest air-sea search in Hawaiian history.”
So how did Google land on Eddie Aikau as the subject for their Google Doodle? Well, a group of Googlers regularly brainstorm ideas for events and people to be celebrated with a doodle. The ideas come from Googlers (people who work at Google) and Google users, who can email suggestions in.
“Eddie’s story is incredible; his legacy lives on as much through his surfing accomplishments as with his service as a lifeguard,” Jessica Yu, Google Doodle team lead, wrote in an email. “His dedication to the lives of fellow human beings was obvious. When I lived in Hawaii for a period of time, it was evident to me how important Eddie was to the local culture and community. With the Doodle, we wanted to honor Eddie and help even more people learn about his story and the values he stood for.”