In light of the fact that today is Father’s Day, giving Duke a little nod is appropriate. Duke Kahanamoku is generally recognized as the Father of Modern Surfing, but his history is much more interesting and complex than just that. He grew up near the beaches of Waikiki and worked as a “beach boy” to help visitors with their ocean-visiting needs. Spending so much time near the ocean, he was an amazing swimmer, and was in fact so fast that his times weren’t believed by contest organizers or athletic associations. He qualified to represent the United States in the 1912 Olympics, winning 2 medals that year, and won 3 additional medals in the next two Olympics. Yes, we have Michael Phelps now, but if you think about the fact that in 1912, there were a total of 7 medal events in Men’s swimming, winning 2 of them is a huge percentage. (FYI, there were 17 mens swimming medals awarded in the 2008 Olympics).
Aside from his swimming skills, Duke could also be seen surfing his 16 foot koa board in the waves of Waikiki. He introduced many visitors and celebrities to the sport, and traveled around the world (also with his 16 foot board!) to display his surfing skills. Duke brought the sport of surfing to California and to Australia, two places where surfing is a fundamental part of their culture. Duke also spent time in Hollywood, and in his spare time saved fishermen offshore.
Later, he returned to Honolulu and served as Sheriff for almost 30 years. He was known as a humble, unassuming man, always quick to share his love of the ocean and to spread aloha to locals and visitors alike. He’s the embodiment of what makes Hawaii so special. Aloha nui loa, Duke!