Olympic legends

Duke Kahanamoku Olympic gold medallist and surfer

The legendary Hawaiian waterman won 3 Olympic golds and 2 silvers, as well as popularising surfing round the world.

Duke Kahanamoku, "The Big Kahuna"

Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, also known as the Big Kahuna, was born on August 24, 1890 in Hawaii and went on to become a five-time Olympic swimming medalist.

Duke was the father of modern surfing

Duke, his name rather than a title, was also a policeman, an actor, a beach volleyball player and a businessman. He was widely credited with popularising surfing around the world, when at that time it only known in Hawaii.

Olympic gold medallist

He easily classifed for the USA Olympic swimming team in 1912, beating the 200 metre freestyle record in qualifying, and smashing the world record as he took gold in the 100m freestyle.

How Duke's Olympic gold was reported.

Olympic medal haul

Duke won the gold in the 100m in Stockholm 1912 and 1920 in Antwerp. He also got gold in the 4x100 in 1920. His silver medals came in Stockholm in the 4x200m relay and in Paris 1924 in the 100m freestyle.

Duke with his brothers Sam and Dave, also swimmers, at the Paris Olympics in 1924. Sam won the 100m bronze, with Johnny Weissmüller taking gold and Duke silver.

Promoting surfing around the world

In addition to competitive swimming, Duke travelled the world giving swimming and surf demonstrations. His show at Freshwater Beach, Sydney on 23 December 1914 is considered the most important event in the development of Australian surfing.

The Big Kahuna on a wave

Duke was also a hero

In addition to being a swimmer and a surfer, Duke was a hero: while living in Newport Beach, California on June 14, 1925, he rescued eight men from a fishing vessel that capsized in heavy surf. 29 fishermen went into the water and 17 perished. Newport's police chief at the time said of Duke's efforts that it was "the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen".

Since then, surfboards have been standard issue for life guards in the US.

Duke in Hollywood

Duke lived for a time in Southern Californa and was an actor and an extra in a number of films. He used his Hollywood contacts to promote surfing.

Duke Kahanamoku and John Wayne in the film "Wake of the Red Witch" in 1948.

Duke was the first person to be inducted into both the Swimming Hall of Fame and the Surfing Hall of Fame. The Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championships are named in his honour. He surfed his whole life and will always be remembered as the father of modern surfing.

Tributes still paid to Duke

Kahanamoku died of a heart attack on January 22, 1968, at the age of 77. His ashes were scattered in his beloved sea. There is a statue in his honour in Waikiki, Hawaii.



Statue to Duke.