Duke Kahanamoku, both : August 24, 1890 in Honolulu, Kingdom of Hawaii [now Hawaii, USA] was one of the great Olympic heroes of all time. D uke was born in Honolulu into a world that valued integrity, respect, and harmony. A life in which giving and sharing was essential.
A swimmer of unprecedented natural talent, Duke burst onto the scene by crushing world records by 4.6 seconds in his very first swim race in Honolulu harbor’s open waters. His Olympic career was equally phenomenal: spanning two decades, four Games, and six medals. All told, Duke won gold medal in the 100 Meter Swimming Freestyle at the 1912 & 1920 Summer Olympics and was part of the gold medal winning 4X200 Meter Freestyle Relay team at the 1920 games.
Surfing his trademark 16-foot, 114-pound koa wood board, Duke cut a commanding presence with the legendary accomplishments to back it up: once riding a monster wave for 1 1/8 miles at Waikiki, the longest in modern times. His fame attracted people to his sport, helping introduce and popularize surfing across the world.
Hawai’i’s native son, Duke served as Sheriff of Honolulu, where he was re-elected to his post 13 times. Who knew that the surfer dude would become the sheriff dude. In June, 1925, he was credited with saving the lives of eight people when the yacht they were on capsized. Duke used his surfboard to save their lives. He was a true hero.