Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Duke Kahanamoku

August 24 is the birthdate of Duke Kahanamoku, born in 1890. Above is a photograph of the Duke, aged 21, about 100 years ago. An Olympic gold medalist in swimming, Duke's greatest legacy was his towering role as the first real international ambassador of surfing. He is almost singlehandedly responsible for launching the ancient Polynesian "Sport of Kings" in California and Australia and for generously sharing the stoke where ever he went.

Here is a link to a website describing the first recorded western account of surfing by a lieutenant of Captain Cook on a voyage to Hawaii -- subsequent pages describe the role of Jack London, George Freeth, Alexander Hume Ford, and especially Duke Kahanamoku in reviving the sport of surfing and then spreading it worldwide.

Below is a video showing early footage of Duke surfing at Honolulu with Diamond Head in the background.

The video below describes Kahanamoku's 1915 visit to Australia, where his surfing demonstrations fell on extremely fertile soil and can be directly credited with launching that country's well-known fervor for surfing.

Like other legendary Hawaiian watermen, Duke Kahanamoku was also an actual lifesaver, and once dove into the waves repeatedly to save several fishermen in distress when their boat capsized in heavy surf off of Newport Beach in June of 1925.

Surfers everywhere should be grateful to Duke Kahanamoku for his efforts to spread the ancient Polynesian art of surfing beyond the shores of Hawaii in the best tradition of Aloha.