Aikau is credited with saving about 500 people during his time as a lifeguard and surfer. He disappeared while trying to get help for a capsized boat in 1978 at the age of 31. The phrase ‘Eddie would go’ became a signature about Aikau -- meaning he would go on perilous missions or ride big waves that no one else would dare.
The phrase is familiar to many of us in this area -- and particularly those of us at the Tampa Bay Times -- because it was used to describe Times Outdoors Editor Terry Tomalin, who died of a heart attack three years ago this month.
Bumper stickers and signs with the phrase ‘Terry would go’ are taped and tacked on cubicle walls and desks around the newsroom to this day. You see them on cars and trucks around the Tampa Bay area as well.
On May 19, 2016, Terry was at the North Shore Aquatic Center in St. Petersburg with his 14-year-old son Kai, as the two were taking a life guarding test together. Terry collapsed and never regained consciousness.
Terry was a larger-than-life presence in the newsroom and in the community. A memorial service for him at Fort De Soto Park drew thousands of people, many of whom paddled out into the water afterward to pay tribute to him.
Terry was an authentic outdoorsman, a cherished community volunteer and a dedicated family man. He is survived by his wife, Kanika Tomalin, and their two children, Kai and Nia.
“Terry personified what it meant to be part of a community,” Neil Brown, the Times editor at the time, said then. “You think of Terry and you think of his stories about the beauty of being alive and taking advantage of living around Tampa Bay. You think of his volunteer work in the community or you think of him routinely taking 40 kids camping. I can’t imagine that I’ve ever been around a more giving, energetic, can-do man.”
The Aikau tribute from Google was made on what would have been his 73rd birthday.
Aikau’s death came as he was trying to paddle to shore after a boat he was on capsized. He shed his life jacket so he could paddle faster. Though everyone on board the ship was later rescued, Aikau was never seen again. His body was never found, though the search for him was the largest in Hawaii’s history, according to published reports.
As a lifeguard, he was credited with never allowing a drowning to occur under his watch.