The Hawaiian was an absolute legend, and his lore is much more than him being the Father of Modern Surfing. During Duke Kahanamoku’s prime, he had no equal in the water — surfing or swimming. And the gold medalist swimmer employed his ascent to the top of the podium at the 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics as a spring board to spread both surf and aloha to the far reaches of the Earth, introducing his passion for wave riding to the mainland United States, Australia, and places the world over, effectively birthing modern surfing.
And he only grew better with time. Kahanamoku’s mentee (and legend in his own right) Tom Blake went as far as to say “Duke attained his greatest surfing satisfactions and some of his greatest achievements as a rider after his 40th year.”
But Duke’s influence wasn’t limited to surf. The islander was a true renaissance man. Among his many talents he was also an actor who appeared in John Wayne films among others.
According to the Encyclopedia of Surfing, Duke “socialized with Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Babe Ruth, and other sports and entertainment giants.” Yet, as a dark-skinned man, he often encountered racism. Despite the heavy prejudice, Kahanamoku maintained his aloha vibes with the help of the familiar comfort of the ocean.
In his spirit, 124 years old today, we wish everyone vibrant aloha vibes. And as Duke would do, share them with family, friends, neighbors, strangers — anyone and everyone.