Duke Kahanamoku Video – a video done by Hawaiian students I presume. It kind of dies out abruptly at the end, but it has so much good information I thought it was worth posting:

I happened to find an old video from 1963 with some surfing footage at one of my favorite places in Hawaii – Honolua Bay, Maui. This led me to surfing through Youtube for other old videos of the Hawaiian islands. There were more than a couple Duke Kahanamoku videos, so I started watching them. I became captivated with Duke’s story. If you’ve lived in Hawaii, you know his name, but you probably don’t know much about him. I knew he was a swimmer and surfer… but there is a lot more to the story, a lot more to say about Duke as a man.

Some history about Duke Kahanamoku:

  • Duke shattered swimming records
  • Competed in the Olympics for 20 years
  • Won Gold medals in Swimming
  • Introduced Surfing to the World
  • Pioneered the Hawaii visitor industry
  • Became Hawaii’s Ambassador of Aloha

Duke Kahanamoku was born in Waikiki in 1890, one hundred and twenty-two years ago. It’s hard to imagine that because his influence is so strong in Hawaii. It’s almost as if you could see him come down to Waikiki with his 100+ lb. board and catch some of the easy rolling waves. It’s almost like he’s there – his statue right there on the beach where hundreds of people surf long boards each day, is bigger than life. Duke was an inspiration for Hawaiians then and now.

Below are just some notes I jotted down as I listened to some of the videos:

  • Described by friends as pure Hawaiian, big, strong, gentle, humorous, legendary, iconic, a humble hero.
  • Another friend of Duke’s said, “He was so powerful, he had a tremendous kick. (while swimming)”, and, “he had long lean arms and powerful legs…”
  • His father was a police captain – who fought hard to work his way up through ranks.
  • Duke’s mother was a very religious woman – with a strong sense of family’s ancestry.
  • Grew up in Waikiki where Royal Hawaiian hotel stands on Waikiki beach now.
  • Dropped out of school.
  • Aug 12, 1911 – 100 yard swim meet in Honolulu – broke the world record by more than 4 seconds. This world record was thrown out – it never became official. Nobody could believe he beat the world record by four seconds when other challengers to previous world records were shaving tenths of seconds off the record. Officals blamed the excellent result Duke got on their unprofessional timers and currents in the ocean.
  • In 1912 Duke won one gold, and in 1920 he won two gold medals in the Olympics for swimming.
  • Introduced surfing to Australia by taking an Aussie woman on a tandem surf on a board he made from a local tree. Australia took to surfing in a big way – as you can see by the state of the sport in the country today!
  • Being very brown-skinned, Duke encountered racism across the world – and persevered in spite of it.
  • First person to be inducted into both the Swimming Hall of Fame and the Surfing Hall of fame.
  • Member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame with 5 medals.
  • Duke was an actor, lifeguard, and played water polo well too.

A story from his time in California –


While living in Newport Beach, California on June 14, 1925, Kahanamoku rescued eight men from a fishing vessel that capsized in heavy surf while attempting to enter the city’s harbor.[8] 29 fishermen went into the water and 17 perished. Using his surfboard, he was able to make quick trips back and forth to shore to increase the number of sailors rescued.[9] Two other surfers saved four more fishermen. Newport’s police chief at the time called Duke’s efforts “the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen.”

More than 4 decades after Duke Kahanamoku’s passing – he remains a shining example of what Hawaii has to offer to the rest of the world.

* * *

Duke appears to have been more than just good at the sports of swimming and surfing. He was a quality person – that comes through in every article I’ve seen about him, as well as the videos I’ve just watched on Youtube produced by many different people and companies.

Duke symbolizes what Hawaii was in the past, is now, and will be in the future. Never before has one person so embodied the spirit of Aloha like Duke Kahanamoku.

If you are visiting Hawaii, or if you live in the Hawaiian islands, you might take some time to learn something about the history of the islands. Knowledge of Duke and how he changed Hawaii for the better is part of the path to knowing the big picture of Hawaii.

Learning about how Hawaii became a U.S. state, would be another learning experience with a few surprises – more than likely.

I look at Hawaii with a sense of longing for the way it used to be. I wish I could travel back in time and spend days learning to surf from Duke in Waikiki and learning to write from Jack London, who spent a lot of time there in the early 1900’s. I wish I could have been living the life on Oahu, introducing visitors to the Hawaiian lifestyle and most incredible way to pass time ever invented… surfing waves in Hawaii.

Another historically significant video of Duke riding waves on his surfboard in Waikiki:

Are you considering, “Moving to Hawaii?”