June 14 ~  Embrace of the Ocean Memories of Duke

"Surfing is an embrace of the ocean. To ride the slope of a wave is not to conquer but to communicate, a form of worship." ~ Bob Krauss

Duke Kahanamoku

Master surfer, as full of life as the water he soared through, Duke Paoa Kahinu Makoe Hulikohola Kahanmoku (1890-1968) was born on Oahu and known for riding the waves like no other.

The native Hawaiian legend was a gold medal winner in the 100-meter freestyle event in the 1912 and 1920 Olympics, introducing the flutter kick and Hawaiian crawl in international competition. He is considered the greatest swimmer of his time.

On this day in 1925, Kahanamoku became a national hero when he used his surfboard to rescue eight men whose 40-foot fishing boat capsized in heavy seas off Newport Beach, California.

Kahanamoku was a private, quiet man who spoke Hawaiian as often as he could. Called the father of modern surfing, he spread his love for surfing, He'e Nalu, with the world.

In 1915, he introduced the sport to Australia, then took his board to America's Mainland, surfing the East Coast and making 30 movies in Hollywood. In all his travels, he embodied the aloha spirit.

"Aloha is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality, which makes Hawaii renowned as the world's center of understanding and fellowship," he believed.

He was known for his charm and dignity, representing, as his friend Reverend Abraham Akaka described, "the ali'i nobility in the highest and truest sense--concern for others, humility in victory, courage in adversity, good sportsmanship in defeat. He had a quality of life we are all challenged and inspired to emulate."

The Duke continues to welcome visitors to Hawaii. In 1990, a 17-1/2 foot bronze statue of Kahanamoku, with surfboard and arms outstretched, was dedicated at Waikiki's Kuhio Beach.

"Of all the industrialists, political leaders, and others who have gained fame in Hawaii, no one looms greater than Duke Kahanamoku," praised surfer and business leader Fred Hemmings Jr.

Celebrate the buoyancy of life.