Duke Kahanamoku: Ambassador of Aloha and father of modern surfing

Duke Kahanamoku is widely recognized as the father of modern surfing. He is the ultimate beach boy and, for many, the "Big Kahuna" is the most influential surfer of all time.

Not only did he boost surfing in his Hawaiian Islands, but he was also one of the first to promote wave riding in Australia and California.

Kahanamoku was a good man, a humble Hawaiian citizen proud of his origins, and always ready to promote his homeland as a unique tourist destination.

He is commonly referred to as Hawaii's favorite Ambassador of Aloha.

As an active and enthusiastic swimmer, "The Duke" never competed with a professional status because he always tried to maintain his eligibility for the Olympic Games.

As a result, he struggled to make a living out of his non-sport activities, and there were many profiting from his good nature.

Despite his discrete, low-key personality, Duke Kahanamoku was a friendly and sociable person.

He taught British royalty members to surf, dated Hollywood stars, and partnered with American businesspeople.

The bronze-skinned Hawaiian traveled the world in a time when cruise ships were the only practical means of transport, and he was always welcomed as an exotic star of the Pacific who excelled like no other in the art of swimming and walking on water.

Duke lived 77 years of adventure and glory.

Duke Kahanamoku: the bronze statue in his honor is located in Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii | Photo: Shutterstock

A Life Less Ordinary

Take a look at a few interesting facts you should know about the "Human Fish":

  1. Duke Kahanamoku was named after Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, who visited Hawaii in 1869;
  2. Duke's parents, Duke and Julia, were descendants of Hawaiian royalty;
  3. The full name of the "Big Kahuna" is Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku;
  4. Duke Kahanamoku played soccer. In 1908, he was a member of the Kamehameha School Soccer Team;
  5. Duke Kahanamoku was 6'1'' and weighed 190 pounds;
  6. Duke Kahanamoku was the first Hawaiian ever to win a medal at the Olympic Games. He took three gold medals (Stockholm 1912, Antwerp 1920) and two silver medals (Stockholm 1912, Paris 1924);
  7. In 1916, Duke Kahanamoku rode one of the longest-ever waves at Honolulu. He took off at Castle's, and continued through Publics and Queen's before stepping ashore at Canoes;
  8. Duke Kahanamoku served as sheriff of Honolulu from 1932 to 1961. He was re-elected 13 consecutive times;
  9. Duke Kahanamoku was an actor and an extra in over 25 Hollywood movies;
  10. When the first hollow surfboards hit the waters of Hawaii, he tried them but immediately got back to his favorite models - the traditional and ultra-heavy 16-foot wooden surfboard;
  11. Duke Kahanamoku had many non-surfing hobbies, including canoeing, sailing, water polo, lifesaving, and ukulele playing;
  12. Duke Kahanamoku was married to Nadine Alexander for 28 years. They never had any children;
  13. Duke Kahanamoku was the first person to be inducted into both the International Swimming Hall of Fame (1965) and the Surfing Halls of Fame (1966);
  14. The nine-foot bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku, located in the Waikiki beachfront area, was designed by Jan Gordon Fisher and publicly unveiled on August 24, 1990, precisely 100 years after Duke's birth;
  15. On his 125th birthday, Duke Kahanamoku was featured in Google Doodle;

Discover the most memorable Duke Kahanamoku quotes.

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