Duke Kahanamoku Statue, Oahu | Go Hawaii

Duke Kahanamoku


The Father of Modern Surfing

What: Iconic Waikīkī statue of “The father of modern surfing”
Where: On Kūhiō Beach in Waikīkī

On Kūhiō Beach, a bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku welcomes you to Waikīkī 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 Waikīkī near the current Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikīkī 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 Waikīkī Beach Boys, watermen who earned their livings teaching visitors how to surf and canoe at Waikīkī Beach; if you look, you can still find real Waikīkī Beach Boys showing visitors a great time in the Waikīkī surf today. The amiable Duke also acted in Hollywood, served as Hawaiʻi'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 Waikīkī Beach Boys grab a bite at Duke's Canoe Club in the Outrigger Waikīkī overlooking Waikīkī Beach.

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

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