In EDDIE WOULD GO, award-winning author Stuart Holmes Coleman explores the life of fearless Hawaiian surfer Eddie Aikau, known for riding big waves while saving lives on the North Shore’s Waimea Bay, where he was the beach’s first lifeguard. Today, Stuart Holmes Coleman joins us with a letter to librarians to celebrate the 20th anniversary edition of the book.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to write to those who work in libraries, teach and help cultivate a love of books and reading in young people. It’s amazing where books can take us or how they can change the course of our lives.
Growing up in Charleston, SC, I had a history teacher who fought in the Pacific Theater during World War 2 and went on to teach an unusual course called Cultures of the Pacific. That was my first introduction to Hawaiian culture. His wife, the school librarian, then introduced me to books about Hawaiian cultural icons like Duke Kahanamoku, the Olympic swimming champion and the father of modern surfing. As a teenager learning to surf the small waves of the Atlantic, I dreamed of surfing the big, blue waves that I saw in old episodes of Hawaii 5-0.
After years of studying literature in college and creative writing in graduate school, though, I lost sight of my teenage fantasy of surfing in Hawaii. Instead, I found a new home in the cool, musty air of libraries as I focused my dreams on becoming a writer and a teacher. But after applying for a job teaching English at a high school in Honolulu, I suddenly realized I could merge these different passions together.
In 1993, I moved to the most remote islands on Earth and began “living the dream” of teaching, writing and surfing. But I didn’t think I would stay in the Islands for long. As an older teacher once quipped, “I moved to Hawaii for one winter, but winter never came; so I never left.” That’s how I ended up making my home in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I was also reunited in Paradise with my old history teacher and his wife the librarian, both of whom had made good on their promise to retire in Waikiki.
As a young English teacher, I was struck by the fact that there were very few books about local Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders or even Asian-Americans. I remember thinking, Someone should write about indigenous people so students can learn more about their cultures. That’s when I learned about a mysterious Hawaiian icon named Eddie Aikau.
Shocked no one had written about this amazing man, I began a four-year odyssey to write the first biography about Eddie Aikau. After a string of rejections from the biggest publishing companies in the country, EDDIE WOULD GO was finally published in 2002. It became a best-seller in Hawaii, won literary awards and is still taught in schools around the country. There are even several international editions in Japanese, Portuguese and German.
More importantly, I think the reason this book is still in print 20 years later is because Eddie embodies the wisdom and beauty of his culture. As a reader, writer and lover of all things ocean-related, that is a timeless gift I will always treasure. I hope EDDIE WOULD GO will continue to inspire students and people to learn about indigenous cultures and explore new ways of looking at the world.