As the Triple Crown of Surfing comes to a close it is time to recognize the most famous name in surfing, no, not Kelly Slater — an Olympic Champion, Actor and Hawaiian Hero. Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku is credited with spreading the sport of surfing from Hawaii to the world.
The name “Duke” is not a title, but his given name, named after his father, Duke Halapu Kahanamoku. Duke attended the Waikiki Grammar Schools, but had to quit to help support the family. Growing at Waikiki, the beach boy developed his surfing and swimming skills.
The Duke easily qualified for the U.S. Olympic swimming team in 1912, breaking the record for the 200 meter freestyle in his trial heat for the 4×200 relay. He the gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle in the 1912 Olympics in 1920 he won gold medals both in the 100 meters and in the relay. He finished the 100 meters with a silver in 1924, with the gold going to Johnny Weissmuller and the bronze to Duke’s brother, Samuel Kahanamoku. He also played for the U.S. water polo team at the 1932 Summer Olympics.
His surfing exhibition at a Sydney beach on December 23, 1914 is widely regarded as the day surfing landed in Australia. In 1925 Duke rescued twelve men in a boating tragedy off Newport Beach. He was the sheriff of Honolulu for 26 years. On January 22, 1968 the world bid “Aloha” to Hawaii’s most famous citizen.