Happy Birthday Duke Kahanamoku!

Kaid Nickl, Reporter

August 24th, 2015 was Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamokus 125th Birthday! Kahanamoku was an American competitive swimmer with a very strong Hawaiian ethnicity. He is very widely credited and well known for spreading the sport of surfing. Kahanamoku was also an actor, businessman, law enforcement officer, and a beach volleyball player. Interestingly, the name “Duke” was not a nickname, as he was named after his father, who shared the same first name. His grandparents were attendants to the Kamehamehas. Although Kahanamoku was not a royal member, he was descended from Alapainui, who ruled the Big Island.

Kahanamoku was born at Waikiki on August 24th, 1890. He had five brothers and three sisters that he grew up with. In 1912, Duke easily qualified for the U.S swimming team. At Stockholm in 1912, he won a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle, as well as a silver medal for the 4x200m freestyle relay race. Duke continued to shine on, winning gold medals in both 100-meter races and the 4x200m relays in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. Finally, in the 1924 Paris Olympics, he won another silver in the 100 meter freestyle. Also of note are his heroics. One day at Newport Beach, California, a fishing boat that was attempting to dock at the harbor capsized. Duke rescued eight men by making quick trips back and forth with his surfboard. Newport’s police chief called it “the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen.”

Duke died of a heart attack on January 22nd, 1968. His burial at sea was escorted by 30 policemen. Reverend Abraham Akaka performed Duke’s service. As his ashes were scattered into the ocean, a group of beach boys sang several hawaiian songs, including “Aloha Oe”. Today, a bronze statue on Waikiki beach stands as a monument. Many people place leis on the statue to honor him. Duke Kahanamoku is a man that was and is still revered with respect and pride today.