Duke Kahanamoku Statue, Oahu | Go Hawaii

Duke Kahanamoku


The Father of Modern Surfing

What: Iconic Waikiki statue of “The father of modern surfing”
Where: On Kuhio Beach in Waikiki

On Kuhio Beach, a bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku welcomes you to Waikiki with open arms. Duke was a true Hawaiian hero and one of the world's greatest watermen, a master of swimming, surfing and outrigger canoe paddling.

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was born on August 24, 1890. He grew up swimming and surfing in Waikiki near the current Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. Discovered as a swimming sensation, Duke's legend began when he broke the world record in the 100-yard freestyle during his very first competition. The prodigious Duke went on to win Olympic gold in the 100-meter freestyle and silver in the relay in 1912. He also won two gold medals in 1920 and won a silver medal at age 34 in the 1924 Olympics. 

He was instrumental in helping to spread the sport of surfing and the spirit of aloha around the world—which eventually earned him the nickname "the father of modern surfing." Duke was one of the pioneers of the Waikiki Beach Boys, watermen who earned their livings teaching visitors how to surf and canoe at Waikiki Beach; if you look, you can still find real Waikiki Beach Boys showing visitors a great time in the Waikiki surf today. The amiable Duke also acted in Hollywood, served as Hawaii's first ambassador of goodwill, was eventually elected sheriff and was the first person to be inducted into both the Surfing Hall of Fame and the Swimming Hall of Fame. To see authentic photos and memorabilia of Duke and the Waikiki Beach Boys grab a bite at Duke's Canoe Club in the Outrigger Waikiki overlooking Waikiki Beach.

Note: Tossing lei onto outstretched arms is discouraged due to the acidity of the flowers on the bronze material.

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