The statue of Duke Kahanamoku

September 24, 2019 | Surfing
Duke Kahanamoku: the nine-foot bronze statue is installed in Honolulu, Hawaii | Photo: Shutterstock

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (1890-1968) is widely considered the father of modern surfing.

For many, he is the greatest waterman who ever lived. Kahanamoku was a master swimmer who won gold, silver and bronze medals for the United States in four Olympic Games.

Born in Honolulu, Oahu, Duke epitomizes the spirit of aloha and has become a symbol of Hawaii and its culture. He was one of the pioneer Waikiki beach boys who introduced tourists to wave riding in the early 20th century.

The "Big Kahuna" also presented surfing to mainland America, Australia, and Europe, and excelled in outrigger canoe paddling.

He also used his long and heavy surfboard to save the lives of eight people who capsized in a boat at Corona Del Mar, California, in 1925.

From 1925 to 1933, Duke starred in several Hollywood movies, and between 1934 and 1960, the waterman served as sheriff of Honolulu.

As a result, Hawaii's official Ambassador of Aloha was honored with a nine-foot statue placed at Kalakaua Ave, in Honolulu, between Waikiki Beach and Kuhio Beach.

You can easily find it next to the Honolulu Police Department and across the street from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa.

The Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue: sculpted by Jan Gordon Fisher and erected in 1990 | Photo: Pata Sudaka Surf Trips

One of the Most Photographed Landmarks in Hawaii

The cast bronze figure was sculpted by Jan Gordon Fisher, an artist, and professor from Westwood, California.

It shows the waterman standing in front of his surfboard, welcoming everyone with open arms, surrounded by honorary Hawaiian spears, and dedication plaques.

"He has honored his name, he has honored his race, he has honored his state, he has honored us all," reads the commemorative bronze plaque.

The stunning, eye-catching public statue of "The Duke" is often adorned with fresh, colorful leis.

The Duke Kahanamoku statue was erected in 1990. Initially, the sculpture's orientation was criticized for being placed with Duke's back turned to the sea.

However, today, the larger-than-life statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Hawaiian islands.

People stop by to take pictures with the surf legend and the ocean as a background and seize the moment to lay on the grass and relax.

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