Google Doodle Honors Duke Kahanamoku, the Father of Surfing
Known as the Ambassador of Aloha, Kahanamoku traveled the world, bringing surfing to the likes of California, Australia and New Zealand over his lifetime. Aug. 24 marks what would’ve been Kahanamoku’s 125th birthday — he passed away in 1968.
In Hawaii, Kahanamoku is known for much more… a swimming champion, winning five Olympic medals over the course of his career. His success also enabled him to raise the profile of Hawaii’s true passion of surfing.
Kahanamoku was also elected the sheriff of his home county 13 times and starred in over a dozen movies. Most importantly, he is credited with helping the Hawaiian islands achieve statehood in 1959.
May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Join us all month long as we feature stamps honoring Asian-Pacific American people and places. One of our favorites is this stamp issued in 2002. Considered the father of international surfing, Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku was also known for his grace, humility, and good sportsmanship.
Duke Kahanamoku traveled internationally to give swimming exhibitions between Olympic competitions, and after retiring from the Olympics. It was during this period that he popularized the sport of surfing, previously known only in Hawaii, by incorporating surfing exhibitions into these visits as well.
His surfing exhibition at Sydney’s Freshwater Beach on December 23, 1914 is widely regarded as a seminal event in the development of surfing in Australia. The board that Kahanamoku built from a piece of pine from a local hardware store is retained by the Freshwater Surf Club. There is a statue of Kahanamoku on the headland at Freshwater.
He also made surfing popular in mainland America, first in 1912 while in Southern 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. 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. 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.