Duke Kahanamoku
"Mahape a ale wala`ua," Duke would say.
"Don't talk - keep it in your heart."

     
  During the first half of the 20th century, Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku -- known to most as Duke or The Duke, and as Paoa to Hawaiian and long time island friends -- "emerged as the world's consummate waterman, its fastest swimmer and foremost surfer, the first truly famous beach boy," wrote biographer Grady Timmons. Duke Kahanamoku is best known to surfers as, "the father of modern surfing. As a sign of Duke's importance to the sport, one of his early surfboards, with his name across the bow, is preserved in the Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

Born on August 24, 1890, "he was among the last of the old Hawaiians, raised next to the ocean at Waikiki," wrote Timmons. As the eldest son, Duke was named after his father. His father was named "Duke" in July 1869, following an official visit to the islands from the Duke of Edinburgh, when some families named their sons after him. When Duke gained worldwide recognition for his Olympic swimming gold medals, there were attempts made to link him to royalty, because of his name. Duke would always humbly reply, "My father is a policeman." Duke was baptized in the ocean according to ancient custom. His father and uncle took him out in an outrigger canoe when he was a small boy and threw him into the surf. "It was swim or else," Duke later recalled. "That's the way the old Hawaiians did it." Duke and his brothers were encouraged by both parents and, no doubt, other relatives as well. His brother Sargent remembered, "Mother used to tell her children, 'Go out as far as you want. Never be afraid in the water.'" Waikiki Grammar School was located directly across from the beach. After school, the only logical thing for the kids to do was hit the water. Attending the school along with Duke were his sister and five brothers; Sam, Dave, Billy, Louis and Sargent. "All we did was water, water, water," Louis remembered. "My family believes we come from the ocean. And that's where we're going back."

Under the Hau Tree

In his teens, Duke dropped out of high school and took up the life of a beach boy, gathering daily with other beach boys by a hau tree at Waikiki. This is where the original expression "beach boy" actually comes from. Together, Duke and his peers surfed, swam, repaired nets, shaped surfboards and sang. This group was the nucleus of what later became the Hui Nalu, one of the very first surf clubs. As the best waterman among the formidable group of young watermen at Waikiki, Duke became the group's leader. He set a good example. He did not drink or smoke and if he did get into a fight it was after being hassled and even then he would not punch, preferring to slap, instead. He seldom raised his voice. He used his eyes to communicate what he didn't vocalize.

Years of surfing, rough-water swimming and canoe paddling as a boy and then as a young man molded Duke Kahanamoku into a superb athlete. "He had glistening white teeth, dark shining eyes, and a black mane of hair that he liked to toss about in the surf," wrote Timmons. "He stood six feet one and weighed 190 pounds. He had long sinewy arms and powerful legs. He had the well-defined upper body that all great watermen possess, his 'full-sail' shoulders tapering down to a slim waist and a torso that was 'whipcord' tight." As impressive as the rest of his body was, his hands and feet were extraordinary. A veteran Outrigger Canoe Club member remembered that Duke's hands were so large that when he scooped up ocean water and threw it at you in fun, it looked like a whole bucket of water coming your way. "He could cradle water in his hands, cupping it between his palms, and just shoot a fountain at you. It came with great force. He would often cross his hands in the water -- slapping the surface -- and it would just be boom! boom!" Whether fact or fiction, some claimed Duke could steer a canoe with his feet alone. "He had fins for feet," declared Rabbit Kekai. "He didn't need a paddle."

Duke was among the few who dared ride Castle's, a primo surf spot at Waikiki, known for its size of waves on a good swell. Duke had the biggest board of anyone. It was a 16-footer, made of koa wood, weighing 114 pounds, and designed after the ancient Hawaiian olo board. To Duke, big boards were for big waves. An expression heard the most, when he caught a wave, was his yell of "Coming down!"

"Duke was never afraid of anything in the sea," recalled Kenneth Brown, a prominent part-Hawaiian who sailed the turbulent inter-island channels with Duke. They often sailed to the Kona coast, on the big island, where Brown had spent part of his youth. "Duke reminded me of many of the Hawaiians I had met there. Their sense of their environment was unusual. They didn't differentiate much between what was above and below the sea. They had place names for all the hills and bays like we do, but they also had place names for things down in the water. That's the way it was with Duke. The ocean was such a familiar, friendly environment for him. He was no more afraid of what might happen to him at sea than you or I would be of getting hit by a car crossing the street. The ocean was his home."

Duke favored traditional Hawaiian customs and manners. He spoke Hawaiian as much as he could, preferred Hawaiian foods like poi and lau-lau (fish), and saw more in the old Hawaiian surfboard and canoe designs than most anyone else of his time. In his youth, he was perhaps stricter about the traditional designs than he would later become. There's this story about a surfer nicknamed "Mongoose," who sharpened the rounded nose of his board so that he could more easily cut left and right across wave faces. Duke watched from a distance, disapproving, but saying nothing. One day, when Mongoose's pointed-nose board was left unattended, Duke "liberated" it and sawed off the nose altogether. Yet, Duke declared that even while he was still attending school, "I was fired up with a mania for improving the boards and getting the most out of the surf. I was constantly redoing my board, giving it a new shape, new contours, new balance. Others, too, began building new boards and experimenting in various ways. Everyone wanted to outdo the other. Apparently my enthusiasm was catching. No one was content to simply come up with the best possible board; everyone wanted to excel as a surfer -- and the rivalry was keen. I, for one, spent countless hours working at every phase of controlling my boards in the waves, trying new approaches, developing new tricks. When I wasn't at school, I was in the surf."

Duke once said, "I have never seen snow and do not know what winter means. I have never coasted down a hill of frozen rain, but every day of the year where the water is 76, day and night, and the waves roll high, I take my sled, without runners, and coast down the face of the big waves that roll in at Waikiki. How would you like to stand like a god before the crest of a monster billow, always rushing to the bottom of a hill and never reaching its base, and to come rushing in for a half a mile at express speed, in graceful attitude, of course, until you reach the beach and step easily from the wave to the strand?" Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was related by blood to Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop, "the last of the Kamehamehas." In the period of 1909-10, he began to get others interested in longer alaia-type surfboards. "They grew from eight to nine feet or so," wrote another legendary surfer, Tom Blake, in his book Hawaiian Surfboard, published in 1935. "Duke's new one being ten feet long and three inches thick."

Olympic Gold

When Duke surfed, he made surfboards slide across wave faces without the -- as yet to be invented -- skeg. When he swam, his "Kahanamoku kick" was so powerful that his body actually rose up out of the water, "like a speed boat with its prow up," boasted his brother Sargent. The first time he had really watched his brother swim for speed was at the Waikiki Natatorium, a salt-water swimming pool located on Diamond Head's flank. The old timers told Sargent to watch his brother, that when he swam he created waves. When Duke swam there, Sargent saw the waves spread out and hit the sides of the pool. "And I mean they were big," he said, so big that it seemed like they could be ridden with a surfboard."

During the summer of 1911, Duke Kahanamoku was on, "one of his daily swims off Sans Souci Beach at Diamond Head when he was clocked in the 100-yard sprint by attorney William T. Rawlins, the man who was to become his first coach," wrote Grady Timmons, adding it was Rawlins who encouraged Duke and his beach boy friends to form the Hui Nalu and to enter the first sanctioned Hawaiian Amateur Athletic Union swimming and diving championships. These were held on August 11, 1911, where, in "the still, glassy waters of Honolulu Harbor, at age twenty-one," Duke Kahanamoku, "swam the 100-yard freestyle 4.6 seconds faster than anyone had before him." Duke did the 100-yard freestyle in 55.4 seconds, "shattering the world record held by [two time] U.S. Olympic champion Charles M. Daniels." In the 50-yard freestyle, he equaled Daniels' world record, coming in at 24.2 seconds. For extra measure, Duke outswam all competitors with a respectable 2:42:4 second finish in the 220-yard freestyle event. Hui Nalu swept eleven events.

Results of the meet were telegraphed to the amateur Athletic Union headquarters in New York. The official reaction was one of disbelief. An unknown 21 year-old Hawaiian shattering the world's most important swimming record? Even more unbelievable was that Duke had not only shattered the record, he had done it in Honolulu harbor salt water, "on a straightaway course," wrote Leonard Lueras in his book Surfing: The Ultimate Pleasure, "that stretched from a barnacled old barge into what was called the Alakea Slip, a moorage between Piers 6 and 7. A thick rope was stretched taut over the water to mark the finish line. A 55.4 seconds showing in the 100-yard sprint? In a murky, flotsam-filled harbor? Between two ships' piers? I mean, really folks?" The AAU officials sent back their reply: "What are you using for stop watches? Alarm clocks?!"

Next day, The Honolulu Advertiser proclaimed: "Duke Kahanamoku Broke Two Swimming Records. Hawaiian Youth Astounds People By The Way He Tore Through The Water." Duke was referred to as the expert natatorial member of the Hui Nalu club. "Kahanamoku," the article went on to predict, "is a wonder, and he would astonish the mainland aquatic spots if he made a trip to the coast." Later, Honolulu sports columnists would joke that Duke's "luau feet" were so big (size 13), it was their size that propelled him through the water. Despite the fact that the swim had been clocked by five certified judges and the course measured four times, once by a professional surveyor, Duke's accomplishment was not officially recognized by the Amateur Athletic Union. AAU officials argued that Duke's record-breaking swims must have been aided by a current in the harbor. Although the AAU would retract their original decision years later, the original decision delayed Duke's rightful recognition.

Even though officials and fans in Hawaii`i were bummed, the decision against him didn't phase the Duke. He just went back into training. Years later, he told a reporter that he was able to swim so fast in Honolulu Harbor because, "Our water is so full of life, it's the fastest water in the world. That's all there is to it." With money raised by the Hui Nalu, Duke went to the mainland the next year. He delighted sports fans with his swimming technique learned from Australian swimmers who had visited Hawaii in 1910. What sportswriters would refer to as "the Kahanamoku Kick," was actually Duke's adaptation of the Australian Crawl. It was a crawl stroke with scissoring feet and the addition of a "flutter kick."

Once Duke got used to the colder water of the mainland, he began to astound audiences. Sports fans began to call him "The Human Fish" and "The Bronze Duke of Waikiki." After warm-up meets in Chicago and Pittsburgh, among other places, Duke competed in an Olympic trials swimming meet held in May 1912, in Philadelphia. He qualified for the U.S. Olympic team by winning the 100 meter freestyle event in exactly 60 seconds. Less than a month later, at Verona Lake, N.J., Duke qualified for the U.S. Olympic 800 meter relay team. More importantly, during his 200 meter test heat, he bettered the existing world record in the 200 meter freestyle held by Daniels. Although Duke wasn't considered a middle distance swimmer, he bettered Daniels' 200 meter record by six-tenths of a second. His time: 2:40:0. A New York World reporter wrote that Duke began with an "unconcerned" start, "and it was fully two seconds before he went after the field. Once in the water, he quickly overhauled his opponents."

On his way to the 1912 Olympiad in Stockholm, Sweden, Duke met native American Jim Thorpe, celebrated as the greatest all-around athlete of his time. "When Jimmy and I were on the boat to the Olympics in Sweden," Duke remembered, "we had a talk. I said, 'Jimmy, I've seen you run, jump, throw things and carry the ball. You do everything so why don't you swim too?' "Jimmy just grinned at me with that big grin he had for everyone, and said, 'Duke, I saved that for you to take care of. I saved that for you.'"

Sports history was made in Stockholm. Jim Thorpe won almost everything on land and Duke Paoa Kahanamoku won almost everything in the water. Duke broke the record for the 100-yard freestyle, winning the gold medal. Another legendary surfer, George Freeth, had been disqualified from the Olympic trials, back in the States, because his job as lifeguard was considered a professional position. Kahanamoku and Thorpe so impressed their Swedish hosts and the world that both were personally called to the Royal Victory Stand where they received their gold medals and Olympic wreaths directly from Sweden's King Gustaf. Years later, in 1965 at age 75, Duke reminisced about the triumphant moment 53 years earlier. "Come here. Come here a minute. Let me show you something," Duke said. His interviewer wrote that his "now cloudy eyes became clear and his halting speech fluent as he fondly handled a framed wreath on his bedroom wall. "'I was just a big dumb kid when King Gustaf of Sweden gave me this. I didn't even what it was really and almost threw it away. But now it is my most prized trophy,' he said proudly."

When he returned to the United States, "The Swimming Duke" was respectfully besieged by adoring fans and reporters wherever he went. "In the course of the next twenty years," wrote Grady Timmons, "he continued to defy time, competing in four Olympic Games and winning five medals. When he finally retired, at age forty-two, he could still swim as fast as when he was twenty-one." Duke returned to Hawaii a conquering hero. Inside, however, was a growing insecurity, the kind every aging surfer gets sooner or later. "Here he was, twenty-two years old, and the only thing he knew was the ocean. After the celebration came to an end, he had to ask himself: what am I returning home to?" Duke tried getting "a real job," like reading water meters, working in the drafting office of the Territorial government and surveying. In none of them could he find his place. "On and off for many years," wrote Grady Timmons, "he even tried being a beachboy, only to find there was not much money or dignity in it for a man of his stature." Accepting invitations to compete abroad in exhibition swimming meets, Duke found a place and a role as the unofficial ambassador for Hawaii and surfing. Travel was something Duke liked; it kept him active and in the water. Whenever he could, he combined his swimming with surfing demonstrations.

Surfing Ambassador

Duke has been credited, and rightfully so, as the man who introduced surfing and Hawai`i to the world. "At that time," noted Timmons, "Hawaii was the last outpost of the United States. It was the most isolated spot on earth, farther away from any place than any other place in the world. And then along came Duke, shoring up that distance with a single, powerful swimming stroke, emerging onto the world stage as if he had just stepped off his surfboard." After the Stockholm Olympic Games, Duke swam in exhibitions and swimming meets throughout Europe and the United States.

It was while on tour that he began to demonstrate not only his swimming, but his surfing as well. In 1912, he surfed for crowds of people in places like Balboa beach and Corona Del Mar, in Southern California.George Freeth had been the first to introduce surfing to mainland USA, with his professional surfing at Redondo Beach, beginning in 1907. But,it was Duke's highly publicized exhibitions on the West Coast that really grabbed people's attention. Soon, dedicated mainland surfers were emerging primarily in Southern California, "catching the waveriding bug" after Duke's trailblazing in 1912 and again in 1916.

While giving the surfing demos, Duke Kahanamoku caught the eye of Hollywood. Soon, he was asked to play parts in early films being produced there. Between his Olympic triumphs of 1912 and 1920, he thus became a supporting actor and began a minor career as an extra in Hollywood. As early as 1913, he was hanging out with the Hollywood crowd during the week and taking selected new friends surfing on the weekends. Duke was in and out of Los Angeles for the next 20 years. "I played chiefs -- Polynesian chiefs, Aztec chiefs, Indian chiefs... all kinds of chiefs," he once said. He also played parts as "a Hindu thief and an Arab prince." It wasn't until 1948 that he got a Polynesian part. He was Ua Nuka, or "the Big Rain," and he was cast opposite John "Duke" Wayne in the movie, The Wake of the Red Witch. During these years, Duke's fame spread. In 1915, he took his swimming and surfing skills to Australia, where he, "literally pushed that great sea-oriented country into surfing," wrote Lueras. His surfing at Freshwater, January 15, 1915, is legendary and his impact on Australian surfing is immense.

Duke Surfs Fresh Water

In 1912, Paterson, of Manly Beach, had brought a solid, heavy redwood board back with him from Hawaii. He and some local body surfers tried to ride it, but with little success. So, it was not until Duke visited Australia in 1915 that true board surfing hit the Aussie shore. In 1914, would-be surfer and writer Cecil Healy primed Australians with the possibility of Duke Kahanamoku coming to Australia to show a thing or two. "Kahanamoku is a wonderfully dexterous performer on the surfboard, an instrument of pleasure that Australians have so far been unsuccessful in handling to any degree. Reports have been brought back from overseas of his acrobatic feats exexuted while dashing shorewards at great speeds, but one doubts the possibility of Duke, or anyone else, duplicating such feats in Australian surf. Still, if he should give one of his rare exhibitions for our edification, be sure it will create a keen desire on the part of our ambitious shooters to emulate his deeds, and it goes without saying that his movements will be watched intently. Personally, I am convinced that the natural amphibious attitude of the Australians will enable one or another to unravel the knack."

Three years later, the New South Wales Swimming Association invited Duke Kahanamoku to give a swimming exhibition at the Domain Baths, in Sydney. While in Australia, Duke brought surfboard riding to the continent. Yet, he did not bring a surfboard. Instead, he made one. Patricia Gilmore, an Australian reporter/historian, described what happened, in a nostalgic look back for The Sydney Morning Herald, in 1948: "Having no board, he picked out some sugar pine from George Hudson's, and made one. This board -- which is now in the proud possession of Claude West -- was eight feet six inches long, and concave underneath. Veterans of the waves contend that Duke purposely made the surfboard concave instead of convex to give him greater stability in our rougher (as compared with Hawaiian) surf.

"Duke Kahanamoku was asked to select the beach where the exhibition would be given. He chose Freshwater (now Harbord). It was in February, 1915, that Australian board enthusiasts had their first opportunity of seeing a 'board expert' on the waves. There was a big sea running, and from 10:30 in the morning until 1 o'clock Duke never left the water. "He showed the watchers all the tricks he knew, sliding right across the beach on the face of a wave. Demonstrating the ease with which he could manage with a passenger, he took Isabel Latham (still a resident at Harbord) out with him, and they would come right into the beach with incomparable grace and precision."

Duke recalled to his biographer, in World of Surfing, "In 1915 the swimming-obsessed Aussies wanted to see the so-called 'Kahanamoku Kick,' so, along with several aquatic stars, I had the pleasure of visiting that wonderful land of Down Under. The swimming exhibitions went well and we were gratified over the royal treatment they gave us." Exhibition swimming at the Domain Baths, Duke broke his own world record for the 100 yards with a time of 53.8 seconds.

While in Australia, Duke made a tour of the beaches because he "was particularly excited by the fantastic surfing conditions they have down there." He chose Freshwater beach, on Sydney's north side, to give a demonstration on surfboard riding. "I was in Australia long enough," he explained, "to build a makeshift surfboard out of sugar pine." Duke didn't know about Paterson's redwood board in the district, so he made his own out of "a piece of sugar pine supplied by a surf club member whose family was in the timber business." Nat Young recreates that historic three hour demonstration of Sunday morning, January 15, 1915, at Freshwater, based on a conversation he had with the woman whom Duke rode tandem with that day.

It was "A clear, brilliant day. Spectators were milling around to watch. Manly Surf Boat was on hand to give Duke assistance to drag his board through the break -- an offer he laughed at good naturedly. Picking up his board he ran to the water's edge, slid on and paddled out through the breakers. He made better time on the way out than the local swimmers who escorted him. Once out beyond the break it wasn't long before he picked up a wave in the northern corner, stood up and ran the board diagonally across the bay, continually beating the break. Duke showed the crowd everything in the book, from head stands to a finale of tandem surfing with a local girl, Isabel Latham."

"When he went to Australia to show them surfing," Duke's brother Bill recalled, "the lifeguards tried to stop him. They said, 'You can't go out there. There are a lot of man-eating sharks.' Duke said, 'Ah, no, I'll go out." After Duke's surfing exhibition, when he came back to the beach, "the lifeguards asked him, 'Did you see any sharks?' Duke said, 'Yeah, I saw plenty.' 'And they don't bother you?' the lifeguards asked. 'No.' Duke replied. "and I didn't bother them.'"

"I must have put on a show that more than trapped their fancy, for the crowds on shore applauded me long and loud," recalled Duke. "There had been no way of knowing that they would go for it in the manner in which they did. I soared and glided, drifted and sideslipped, with that blending of flying and sailing which only experienced surfers can know and fully appreciate. The Aussies became instant converts."

Duke's impact on Australian surfing was tremendous. He essentially kick-started surfing in Oz. Over twenty years later, in 1939, on the eve of a big Pacific Aquatic Carnival held in Honolulu, then longtime surfboard champion of Australia, Snowy McAlister, wrote: "We in Australia learned the rudiments of the sport from Duke. He gave the boards new meanings. I don't think anybody, Hawaiian or Australian, could duplicate Duke's old time skill."

One instant convert in the crowd was ten year-old Claude West, a Manly beach local. "He was so impressed by what Duke did that he managed to get the Hawaiian to coach him in the art of board riding, and when Duke left Australia he passed the board he had made on to the youngster. Claude soon became a proficient board rider, and other surfers began to imitate him. Claude proved himself a great surfer: he won the Australian surfing championships from 1919 to 1924." Claude West went on to demonstrate the benefits of the surfboard in surf rescue work and at one point rescued the then Governor-General of Australia, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson. He built many boards like the one Duke had given him and was a fine craftsman, "having learnt to fine-plane making coffins for an undertaker." In 1918, West attempted to make a lighter surfboard by chipping out the center of a solid board and covering it with a lighter wood. The experiment failed, due to the absence of a waterproof glue, which had not been invented, yet, and the fact that all Australian timber of the period was sun-dried instead of kiln-dried. When the sun got to the board, it quickly cracked the thin outside veneer.

Before Duke had left Australia, in 1915, he also helped show the Aussies how to build boards. "Nothing would do," he recalled, "but that I must instruct them in board building -- a thing which I did with pleasure. Before I left that fabulous land, the Australians had already turned to making their own boards and practicing what I had shown them in the surf." "Incidentally," added Duke, "forty years later, Tom Zahn came to Australia, found my sugarpine board to be still in seaworthy shape. He took it out into the waters of Freshwater Bay and gave the spectator-jammed beach an exciting surfing demonstration."

Duke's Mile Ride

One of Duke's most memorable times surfing was at Castles, in Waikiki, during a giant south swell in 1917, on a 16 foot-long olo-design board. The ride was a little over a mile. "If I hadn't [fallen]," Duke said in a 1965 interview, "I would have gone right into Happy Steiner's Waikiki Tavern."

"During the Japanese earthquake," wrote Tom Blake,"there was a long spell of big surf here of which the boys still talk. So it seems to be the jars, the shaking, the vibration from the inside of the earth that causes the big surfs. "In a good, big surf the expert rider gets an average ride of three hundred yards, some four and even five hundred yards. In contrast, there are weeks at a time when the bay at Waikiki is so calm a ride of fifty yeards is a good one. Waves up to three feet high are running then.

"In 1917, during the Japanese earthquake surf, Duke and the well-known 'Dad' Center had two of the greatest rides in modern times. There are many stories about their ride. Duke pointed out to me one day, when we were surfing away outside, where the ride took place. Of that day in 1917, he says: 'It was about 8:30 in the morning, no trade wind yet, the ocean was like glass, except for the swells. They were running about thirty feet high. We were waiting for them off Castle Point (Kalahuewehe), about five hundred yards outside the shallow coral and well to the west end of the break. We were so far out that we recognized the captain on the bridge of a passing steamer. A set of blue birds (big swells in blue water) loomed up. It looked as though they would break on us and we started paddling out, then stopped and decided to chance it. When the first one reached us it was just curling on top and very steep. Dad caught it and I took the next one. It took just one stroke to catch it; I had to slide hard to get out of the break. I went so fast the chop of the wave struck the bottom of my board like a patter of a machine gun. I figured the approximate speed. I was going about thirty miles an hour and when you are so close to the water you appreciate speed. That, along with the hazard of the wave breaking on me, made it quite interesting. I slid just a little too far west to make Cunha break. Dad Center did the same thing, this made the ride over a half mile long. That is not the limit, however, for I feel sure a ride twice that far is waiting for somebody."

In his own book, World of Surfing, written with Joe Brennan and published fifty years after the fact, Duke again recalled the details of this ride "as though it all happened yesterday, for, in retrospect, I have relived the ride many a time. I think my memory plays me no tricks on this one. "Pride was in it with me those days, and I was still striving to build bigger and better boards, ride taller, faster waves, and develop more dexterity from day to day. Also, vanity probably had much to do with my trying to delight the crowds at Waikiki with spectacular rides on the long, glassy, sloping waves."

"But the day I caught 'The Big One' was a day when I was not thinking in terms of awing any tourists or kamaainas (old-timers) on Waikiki Beach. It was simply an early morning when mammoth ground swells were rolling in sporadically from the horizon, and I saw that no one was paddling out to try them. Frankly, they were the largest I'd ever seen. The yell of 'The surf is up!' was the understatement of the century.

"In fact, it was that rare morning when the word was out that the big 'Bluebirds' were rolling in; this is the name for gigantic waves that sweep in from the horizon on extra-ordinary occasions. Sometimes years elapse with no evidence of them. They are spawned far out at sea and are the result of cataclysms of nature -- either great atmospheric disturbances or subterranean agitation like underwater earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

"True, as waves go, the experts will agree that bigness alone is not what supplies outstandingly good surfing. Sometimes giant waves make for bad surfing in spite of their size. And the reason often is that there is an onshore wind that pushes the top of the waves down and makes them break too fast with lots of white water (foam). It takes an offshore wind to make the waves stand up to their full height. This day we had stiff tradewinds blowing in from the high Koolau Range, and they were making those Bluebirds tower up like the Himalayas. Man, I was pulling my breath from way down at the sight of them.

"It put me in mind of the winter storm waves that roar in at Kaena Point on the North Shore. Big wave surfers, even then, were doing much speculating on whether those Kaena waves could be ridden with any degree of safety. The Bluebirds facing me were easily thirty-plus waves and they looked as though, with the right equipment -- plus a lot of luck -- they just might be makeable."

"The danger lay in the proneout or wipeout. Studying the waves made me wonder if any man's body could withstand the unbelievable force of a thirty- to fifty-foot wall of water when it crashes. And, too, could even a top swimmer like myself manage to battle the currents and explosive water that would necessarily accompany the aftermath of such a wave? "Well, the answer seemed to be simply -- don't get wiped out!

"From the shore you could see those high glassy ridges building up in the outer Diamond Head region. The Bluebirds were swarming across the bay in a solid line as far northwest as Honolulu Harbor. They were tall, steep and fast. The closer-in ones crumbled and showed their teeth with a fury that I had never seen before. I wondered if I could even push through the acres of white water to get to the outer area where the buildups were taking place.

"But, like the mountain climbers with Mount Everest, you try it 'Just because it's there.' Somedays a man does not take time to analyze what motivates him. All I knew was that I was suddenly trying to shove through that incoming sea -- and having the fight of my life. I was using my papa nui (big board), the sixteen-foot, 114-pound semi-hollow board, and it was like trying to jam a log through the flood of a dam break."

"Again and again it was necessary to turn turtle with the big board and hang on tightly underneath -- arms and legs wrapped around a thing that bucked like a bronco gone beserk. The shoreward-bound torrents of water ground overhead making all the racket of a string of freight cars roaring over a trestle. The prone paddling between combers was a demanding thing because the water was wild. It was a case of wrestling the board through blockbusting breakers, and it was a miracle that I ever gained the outlying waters.

"Bushed from the long fight to get seaward, I sat my board and watched the long humps of water peaking into ridges that marched like animated foothills. I let a slew of them lift and drop me with their silent, threatening glide. I could hardly believe that such perpendicular walls of water could be built up like that. The troughs between the swells had the depth of elevator shafts, and I wondered again what it would be like to be buried under tons of water when it curled and detonated. There was something eerie about watching the shimmering backs of the ridges as they passed me and rolled on toward Waikiki."

"I let a lot of them careen by, wondering in my own heart if I was passing them up because of their unholy height, or whether I was really waiting for the big, right one. A man begins to doubt himself at a time like that. Then I was suddenly wheeling and turning to catch the towering blue ridge bearing toward me. I was prone and stroking hard at the water with my hands.

"Strangely, it was more as though the wave had selected me, rather than I had chosen it. It seemed like a very personal and special wave -- the kind I had seen in my mind's eye during a night of tangled dreaming. There was no backing out on this one; the two of us had something to settle between us. The rioting breakers between me and shore no longer bugged me. There was just this one ridge and myself -- no more. Could I master it? I doubted it, but I was willing to die in the attempt to harness it."

"Instinctively I got to my feet when the pitch, slant and speed seemed right. Left foot forward, knees slightly bent, I rode the board down the precipitous slope like a man tobogganing down a glacier. Sliding left along the watery monster's face, I didn't know I was at the beginning of a ride that would become a celebrated and memoried thing. All I knew was that I had come to grips with the tallest, bulkiest, fastest wave I had ever seen. I realized, too, more than ever, that to be trapped under its curling bulk would be the same as letting a factory cave in upon you.

"This lethal avalanche of water swept shoreward swiftly and spookily. The board began hissing from the traction as the wave leaned forward with greater and more incredible speed and power. I shifted my weight, cut left at more of an angle and shot into the big Castle Surf which was building and adding to the wave I was on. Spray was spuming up wildly from my rails, and I had never before seen it spout up like that. I rode it for city-long blocks, the wind almost sucking the breath out of me. Diamond Head itself seemed to have come alive and was leaping in at me from the right."

"Then I saw slamming into Elk's Club Surf, still sliding left, and still fighting for balance, for position, for everything and anything that would keep me upright. The drumming of the water under the board had become a madman's tattoo. Elk's Surf rioted me along, high and steep, until I skidded and slanted through into Public Baths Surf. By then it amounted to three surfs combined into one; big, rumbling and exploding. I was not sure I could make it on this ever-steepening ridge. A curl broke to my right and almost engulfed me, so I swung even farther left, shuffled back a little on the board to keep from pearling (nose-diving).

"Left it was; left and more left, with the board veeing a jet of water on both sides and making a snarl that told of speed and stress and thrust. The wind was tugging my hair with frantic hands. Then suddenly it looked as if I might, with more luck, make it into the back of Queen's Surf! The build-up had developed into something approximating what I had heard of tidal waves, and I wondered if it would ever flatten out at all. White water was pounding to my right, so I angled farther from it to avoid its wiping me out and burying me in the sudsy depths."

"Borrowing on the Cunha Surf for all it was worth -- and it was worth several hundred yards -- I managed to manipulate the board into the now towering Queen's Surf. One mistake -- just one small one -- could well spill me into the maelstrom to my right. I teetered for some panic-ridden seconds, caught control again, and made it down on that last forward rush, sliding and bouncing through lunatic water. The breaker gave me all the tossing of a bucking bronco. Still luckily erect, I could see the people standing there on the beach, their hands shading their eyes against the sun, and watching me complete this crazy, unbelievable one-and-three-quarter-mile ride.

"I made it into the shallows in one last surging flood. A little dazedly I wound up in hip-deep water, where I stepped off and pushed my board shoreward through the bubbly surf. That improbable ride gave me the sense of being an unlickable guy for the moment. I heisted my board to my hip, locked both arms around it and lugged it up the beach.

"Without looking at the people clustered around, I walked on, hearing them murmur fine, exciting things which I wanted to remember in days to come. I told myself this was the ride to end all rides. I grinned my thanks to those who stepped close and slapped me on the shoulders, and I smiled to those who told me this was the greatest. I trudged on and on, knowing this would be a shining memory for me that I could take out in years to come, and relive it in all its full glory. This had been it.

"I never caught another wave anything like that one. And now with the birthdays piled up on my back, I know I never shall. But they cannot take that memory away from me. It is a golden one that I treasure, and I'm grateful that God gave it to me."

Tom Blake remembered that Duke had another great ride in 1932, "while we were surfing at Kalahuewehe he picked up a big green comber, already curling at the top, about three hundred yards inside first break Kalahuewehe and rode it through Public Baths surf, through Cunha and ended up inside Cunha opposite Queen's, for a ride of about one thousand yards. This ride was made on his long hollow board."

"As a swimmer and surfrider," wrote Blake, "Duke, to me, is the greatest these Islands ever produced. Only after he has gone on will he be fully and generally appreciated. Duke's exceptionally fine physique is the exception rather than the rule among the Hawaiians as is the perfect body among any race today or in the past and is the result of living under ideally healthy and happy carefree conditions in his boyhood years. He was on the beach all day long, swimming, surfriding or sleeping in the sun. He ate mostly poi and lau-lau (fish). I can say he lived a clean life in every way, resulting in the building of a body as fine as men of any country can attain. His exceptionally fine massive leg development does not come from riding in autos, but plowing through the sand bare-footed, in his youth. His well muscled shoulders and arms came from the surfboard work. His keen analitical turn of mind came from matching wits with big waves which were always scheming and eager to beat and smash him and his ancestors on the coral reefs."

Olympic Gold And Silver

Due to the outbreak of World War I, no Olympiad was held in 1916. Instead, Duke trained American Red Cross volunteers in water lifesaving techniques. With a group of American aquatic champions, he also did a nation-wide tour to raise funds for the Red Cross. "But the point is," underscored Duke, "that the travel which my swimming afforded me also gave me the chance to demonstrate surfing wherever there was a satisfactory surf." One of those places was the East Coast of the United States.

Thus it was that, in 1916, Duke again went to the east coast of the United States of America and this time not only put on demonstrations of swimming, but also of surfing at Atlantic City, New Jersey, and in Nassau County, Long Island, New York. During this period, back on Hawai`i, Duke and George "Dad" Center of the Outrigger Canoe Club rode some of the biggest and longest rides of their lives and of record. Duke's Mile+ Ride of 1917 has become legendary.

Following World War I, "When the 1920 games at Antwerp, Belgium, rolled around," recalled sports columnist Red McQueen, "many thought that Duke at 30 was a bit too old to try out for the American team. But at the behest of Dad Center he whipped back into shape and defended his Olympic crown in a new world record time." Duke reestablished himself as "the world's fastest swimmer." He broke his previous world record in the 100 meter sprint with a time of 60.4 seconds. He also swam on the winning U.S. 800 relay team, along with fellow Hawaiian Pua Kealoha and haoles Norman Ross and Perry McGillivray.

In 1924, Duke was dethroned by one of his best friends. "It was not until the 1924 Paris Olympics," wrote biographer Timmons, "that he was defeated by Johnny Weismuller, who later went on to become Hollywood's first Tarzan. Duke would joke in later life that 'it took Tarzan to beat me.'" Hawaii still had cause to celebrate, however, because Duke, now age 34, brought home a silver medal in the 100 meter sprint and his younger brother Sam won the event's third place bronze. Duke felt that surfing should be an Olympic sport.

"Even as early as... [1918], I was already thinking of surfing in terms of how it could someday become one of the events in the Olympic Games. Why not? Skiing and tobogganing have taken their rightful place as official Games events. I still believe surfing will one day be recognized, voted in and accepted." In the 1920s, it seemed that, finally, "The world was ready for Duke's arrival. But," queried Grady Timmons in his biography of Duke Kahanamoku, "was Duke ready for the world? After the rush of Olympic fame had subsided, he discovered that he could not go back to the carefree existence of a Waikiki beachboy. Success demanded something more. He was forced to lead two lives: one in and one out of the water."

The year after the Paris Olympiad, Duke and fellow surfers made the famous lifesaving effort at Corona del Mar, on June 14, 1925. Even though he was growing beyond the age of most Olympic athletes, Duke continued to qualify for Olympic competition. In 1932, at age 42, he qualified as a member of the U.S. Olympic water polo team and competed in that year's Los Angeles Games. "I wanted to see if I could still swim," Duke humorously recalled later. "I didn't do too well... (but) I guess you begin to slow down a little when you get around 40."

Corona Del Mar Save

"It was in 1925 when I accidentally introduced another kind of surfing to California," recalled Duke Kahanamoku, speaking of his introduction of the surfboard for lifesaving purposes. Long "recommended for the lifeguard service by Tom Blake ," the surfboard's utility as a lifesaving device was dramatically demonstrated by Duke on June 14, 1925, at Corona del Mar. This is how Duke tells the story of when he and a group of Hollywood actor and actress friends were picnicing on the beach and surfing: "... some surfing pals and I were on the beach at Corona del Mar, approximately fifty miles south of Los Angeles. It was a day when anything could happen -- and did happen...

"Big green walls of water were sliding in from the horizon, building up to barnlike heights, then curling and crashing on the shore. Only a porpoise, a shark or a sea lion had any right to be out there. From shore we suddenly saw the charter fishing boat, the Thelma, wallowing in the water just seaward of where the breakers were falling with the CRUMP of tumbling buildings. The craft appeared to be trying to fight her way toward safe water, but it was obviously a losing battle. You could see her rails crowded with fishermen who, at the moment, certainly had other things in mind than fishing. Mine was the only board handy right then -- and I was hoping I wouldn't have to use it...

"In that instant my knees went to tallow, for a mountain of solid green water curled down upon the vessel. Spume geysered up in all directions, and everything was exploding water for longer than you would believe. Then, before the next mammoth breaker could blot out the view again, it was obvious that the Thelma had capsized and thrown her passengers into the boiling sea. Neither I nor my pals were thinking heroics; we were simply running -- me with a board, and the others to get their boards -- and hoping we could save lives.

"I hit the water hard and flat with all the forward thrust I could generate, for those bobbing heads in the water could not remain long above the surface of that churning surge. Fully clothed persons have little chance in a wild sea like that, and even the several who were clinging to the slick hull of the overturned boat could not last long under the pounding.

"It was some surf to try and push through! But I gave it all I had, paddling until my arms begged for mercy. I fought each towering breaker that threatened to heave me clear back onto the beach, and some of the combers almost creamed me for good. I hoped my pals were already running toward the surf with their boards. Help would be at a premium. "Don't ask me how I made it, for it was just one long nightmare of trying to shove through what looked like a low Niagra Falls. The prospects for picking up victims looked impossible. Arm-weary, I got into that area of screaming, gagging victims, and began grabbing at frantic hands, thrashing legs.

"I didn't know what was going on with my friends and their boards. All I was sure of was that I brought one victim in on my board, then two on another trip, possibly three on another -- then back to one. It was a delirious shuttle system working itself out. In a matter of a few minutes, all of us were making rescues. Some victims we could not save at all, for they went under before we could get to them. "We lost count of the number of trips we made out to that tangle of drowning people. All we were sure of was that on each return trip we had a panicked passenger or two on our boards. Without the boards we would probably not have been able to rescue a single person..." Of the 29 people on the Thelma, 17 died and 12 made it through. Of the 12, eight were rescued by the Duke using his surfboard. The whole incident was not quickly forgotten. Years later, in a front page story about the Duke, Los Angeles Times reporter Dial Torgerson wrote, "His role on the beach that day was more dramatic than the scores he played in four decades of intermittent bit-part acting in Hollywood films. For one thing, that day he was the star."

Father of Modern Surfing

Rabbit Kekai was born in 1920 and started surfing five years later. He remembers Duke and "the real old guys," as well as "the big guys" at Publics. "Me and my younger brother learned to surf and angle cut the curl real early. When you get young training, like 5, 6, 7 years old, you get good basics. The way I learned was from watching the big guys. My uncle was a lifeguard and every day we'd go down to the beach, we'd see the big guys hanging around. My cousin Louie Hema and I used to look up to David Hema (his father) and Albert Kauwe (who was custodian at Public Beach Park). Another guy in our family we also used to look up to was Chuck-A-Long, he was one of the greatest, and a guy named Gabe Tong who was a fire chief, and another guy they called 'Hawaiian,' his name was Carlos Naluai. They used to be the big guys down there, riding those 11' to 12' redwood planks out at Publics."

Asked in an interview about the longer boards of the time, Rabbit answered, "That was only Duke and the real old guys who rode those sixteen footers. Of course, there was Blake and that other guy, Sam Reid, who about that time introduced the hollow, cigar-shaped box boards." Rabbit Kekai estimated that there were well over a couple of hundred surfers riding Hawaiian waves toward the later part of the 1920s.

"Way more," than a couple hundred. "They were all over. Queen's, Canoes and every place you can think of. Publics was the most noted spot for big wave riding at the time. Duke and those guys would start way outside and just go. They were trimmers. They'd pick up the wave on those sixteen-foot boards and stay out in the green all the way, they never stayed close to the white water, and they would go a long distance. As kids we watched Tom Blake and all those guys do their trim jobs. Duke and those guys used to just stand and do what we called 'pose.' They used to hold their pose for a mile. At times you'd see them bend down to just take a little drop, then pick up speed again and that's how they'd go. But they never did cutbacks; it was all angle. They'd shout, 'Comin' down' or 'No drop-in!' if we looked like we were thinking about going in front of them."

Rabbit told of his interaction with Duke, specifically with canoe racing. Rabbit was with the Hui Nalu and remembers, "The Duke was with the Outrigger [Canoe Club] when they were our chief competitor. He was their best steersman. When I was a kid, I used to hang around, and when I was about 12 years old [1932] I was a hot-shot in steering two-man canoes. We used to have kid races, the old man brought me up as steersman, cause I used to have my own two-man canoe. I'd go out at Publics. I used to keep it at Sonny Cunha's place [for whom Cunha's is named after]. The steps that he built down, we had two guys carry the canoe across Kalakaua, set 'em down, get one rope and slide that thing down the steps. To bring them up, you had to pull it up, one guy push and the other guy pull. Get it up, run across the street and leave 'em in his yard. He used to let me park my boat there. There was a lady that lived at the far end of his place, she was a b-i-t-c-h (Rabbit spells it out), she wouldn't let anybody around her property. That's where Bobby Krewson and I used to go and invade! There were a lot of her rich old haole friends over there with their boards. We'd fix 'em up (chuckling).

"But, it was really good in our time. That's when the Duke started to take notice of me when I was a kid, like that. Give me all sorts of pointers for steering canoes, and I got to be one of the best out there. Later on, Blue Makua was with me, but he used to go down to the club because his uncle used to be down there (his uncle was one of the noted guys, they called him Boss Makua). I respected that man. My biggest coup in canoe racing was (Rabbit's voice lowers in respect and he almost whispers the next phrase)... beating the Duke at his own game. He taught me how to get the inside lane when we paddle. He'd always shut you out on the inside, he's smart and he taught me a lot of different moves so when you turn, the inside guy don't get by, like the racetrack. The outside guy gotta swing wide, by the time you swing wide, you are left behind. That old man was smart. He knew all the angles and everything. So he used to tell me to watch the guys, that sometime on the outside, you get no choice. Watch him, stay with him right there as close as you can, if he goes close to the buoy you have to swing wide. From outside you get a shorter distance to cut in. So I did that on him, I pulled his own trick! I turned inside and I had the run going inside. When he came out wide. I beat him by half a boat."

Rabbit was asked if Duke had a sense of humor about being beaten by his student. "Well, that day when I went up and got the trophy and brought my crew up," Rabbit answered, "all six Kahanamoku brothers lined up and shook my hand. And it was an honor in those days, and oh, the cheers came down the isle you know, from the old man especially. Then, my coach was John D. Kaupiko, and he tells me, 'Where you learn that?' And when I told him he said, 'You listen to him.' I learned everything I did under John D., but the Duke gave me fine pointers.

"There was another coach from the Outrigger, Dad Center, he used to own all this property around here. Dad was another good coach. Being a haole, you know, you usually don't get anything from them, but Dad used to take me alongside and talk, and he tells me how to train. So I don't knock 'em, I listen, that's the way I learn -- I listen. I listened to the Duke, I listened to Dad, I listened to my coach. Then whenever I get inside, I think, 'Oh, that'll work.' So I pull one again and I get ahead of those guys."

Duke was still making long sections on his surfboard. In 1932, Tom Blake remembered, "while we were surfing at Kalahuewehe," Duke, "picked up a big green comber, already curling at the top, about three hundred yards inside first break Kalahuewehe and rode it through Public Baths surf, through Cunha and ended up inside Cunha opposite Queen's, for a ride of about one thousand yards. This ride was mad on his long hollow board."

After the 1934 Olympiad, Duke started getting serious about his life on land. "Out of the water I am nothing," he once lamented. The crux of the matter was that he had difficulty finding a job suitable to his interests. For a while, he operated two Union Oil Company gas stations -- one in Waikiki and the other in the Pauoa/Nuuanu area of Honolulu. "It was something to do," he said. In 1936, Duke went into politics and was elected to the office of Sheriff of the City and County of Honolulu. A largely ceremonial position, Duke was reelected for 13 straight terms. "Duke occupied a status he never aspired to," said George "Airdale" McPherson. "Thank God he was elected sheriff and given the job of official greeter, because if he would have had to earn a living, he would have starved. Out on the water, he was in his element." When his time as sheriff was up, Duke was then appointed the city's official greeter. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported, "what he lost in his post as sheriff he quickly regained in recognition of his years of unofficial service as an ambassador of goodwill. He was made Official Greeter for the City-County."

Twilight Years

In his later life, Duke remained active and traveled throughout the United States as a "symbol of Hawaii." Even close friends forgot that he suffered a serious heart attack in 1955 and that he was treated for a cerebral blood clot and gastric ulcers, in 1962. Timmons cynically wrote, "In the end, fame never brought Duke money, only ulcers."

When U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited Hawaii in 1962, he walked past many of the island politicians on hand, in order to go right to Duke and meet one of his childhood heroes. "Kennedy was passing curtly along the line of dreary politicians," wrote Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray, "when he suddenly came upon Duke. A big, broad grin spread over the President's features, and the two men... had a long, lively discussion of the crawl stroke and flutter-kick pioneered by Duke."

A look at the year 1965, when Duke Kahanamoku was 75 years of age, reveals the kind of activities he was involved in: Duke became the first person to be inducted in both the swimming and surfing Halls of Fame. At the Swimming Hall of Fame he was reunited with, amongst others, Johnny (Tarzan) Weismuller and fellow Honolulu swimmer/surfer/actor Buster Crabbe. When the Surfing Hall of Fame was instituted by International Surfing magazine that year in Santa Monica, Duke was the first inductee and most honored. Over 2,000 well-known surfers attended the Surfing Hall of Fame ceremonies on June 17, 1965, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. They all rose to give Duke a standing ovation as he arrived to take his place at the opening ceremonies. The August/September issue of International Surfing was dedicated to the Duke who was referred to as, "a surfer who by all standards is king." In September 1965, for the third straight year, Duke was the guest of honor at the United States Surfing Championships, held at Huntington Beach, California. The honors kept coming, for in December he was honored with the first Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championships, held at Sunset Beach, on Oahu, during excellent wave conditions. That event, which one surf mag called "surfing's greatest competitive event ever," was the first truly professional and prestigious contest ever held in radical and challenging Hawaiian surf.

The first Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championships featured, by invitation, 24 of the world's best surfers and was broadcast on Easter Sunday in 1966 as a CBS Sports Spectacular. Viewership for the program was estimated at between 40 and 50 million people, the largest television audience for a surfing contest up to that time. The TV production of the first Duke Invitational was produced by film maker Larry Lindbergh and the contest's creator Kimo Wilder McVay, and later received a nomination for an Emmy award as the best special sports production aired in 1966.

Duke kept going. In April of 1966, he and Hawaii surfing champions Paul Strauch, Jr. and Fred Hemmings, Jr. traveled to Houston, Texas, to be honored guests at the first Houston-Hawaii Surfing Week. The next month, Butch "Mr. Pipeline" Van Artsdalen joined them in Southern California for Broadway department stores' "Salute to Hawaii" promotion and tour. It was said to have been, "the biggest department store promotion ever arranged on behalf of Hawaii merchandise."

During the Southern California tour, Duke and his team of surfing greats made a memorable visit to Malibu. They arrived in a vintage Rolls Royce with surfboards strapped onto its top. The Hollywood-style surfari got national television coverage. With a wink, Duke told the network interviewer, "My boys and I, we showed 'em how to go surfing."

At age 75, Duke crowned beauty queens; attended banquets; was profiled in Sports Illustrated; helped land a marlin at Hawaii's annual Billfish Tournament in Kona; appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, on TV and Arthur Godfrey's radio show; talked with columnist Walter Winchell; was named an honorary district commodore in the United States Coast Guard; and was the recipient of Hawaii's first Medicare card. On his 75th birthday, The Honolulu Advertiser wrote in a special editorial that, "Few areas in the world have been as blessed as Hawaii with a man like Duke Kahanamoku as a symbol of vigorous achievement and friendly goodwill. "Today, at 75, Duke Kahanamoku has been our best-known citizen for so long that the only real question for history is how big his legend will become. Some of the things bearing his name include a foundation, a beach, a swimming pool at the university, an annual regatta, a restaurant and nightspot, a line of sportswear, a music and recording corporation, a new line of tennis shoes, ukuleles, skateboards and surfboards, a surfing club and an international surfing championship sponsored by the CBS television network. In varying way, each of these attests to the esteem in which this man is held not only throughout our nation but throughout the world."

But, some said Duke was also, "as unfathomable out of the water as he was fearless in it." His biographer, Joe Brennan wrote that Duke, "seemed to live way down inside himself." Duke, "was not a big talker," wrote Timmons. "He had a mind that saw deeply and in detail, but he was very contained, reticent almost to a fault. Like the vast ocean itself, he seemed for the most part to exist below the surface."

Sammy Amalu, a notorious Hawaiian con man who later became a newspaper columnist and whose father, Charlie Amalu, was a well-known beachboy, once wrote that no matter the passage of time, Duke never changed. "The Duke was just the Duke. Like Aloha Tower or Diamond Head or the beach at Waikiki, the Duke was always there, just being himself. Just being the Duke." Being in the water made all the difference to Duke. He was the "human fish" and the "father of surfing." His name became synonymous with Waikiki and the term "beachboy." Timmons wrote, "His fame elevated the status of all beachboys. His celebrity contributed to their celebrity."

Yet, in a professional sense, "Duke was not in the business of being a beachboy," recalled world champion surfer Fred Hemmings. "But in the larger sense of the word -- of a man who lived and loved the ocean lifestyle -- Duke was, as far as I'm concerned, the ultimate beachboy." "He had an inner tranquillity," recalled Kenneth Brown. "It was as if he knew something we didn't know. He had a tremendous amount of simple integrity. Unassailable in integrity. You rarely meet people who don't have some persona they assume to cope with things. But Duke was completely transparent. No phoniness. People could say to you that Duke was simple -- the bugga must be dumb! No way. That's an easy way of explaining that. Duke was totally without guile. He knew a lot of things. He just knew 'em."

 
     
 

Source:  http://www.hawaiianswimboat.com/duke.html  

 
     
     
 

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