Ambassador of Aloha, Duke Kahanamoku
Duke Kahanamoku is an icon, forever remembered by Harbord Diggers with the statue on McKillop Park, as part of the Surfers Walk of Fame.
Duke arrived on our shores in December 1914, invited to Australia as the world sprint swimming champion to provide swimming exhibitions. While he stayed at the Boomerang Camp in Freshwater, Duke fashioned a solid surfboard from sugar pine, and it was with this board that he first introduced the ancient craft of Hawaiian Kings - the art of surfboard riding - to the Australian community.
On 24 December 1914 during a demonstration to the press at Freshwater Beach, the very first person surfed the clean waves beyond the break in Australian waters using this Hawaiian-style surfing technique.
It was so popular that a second spur of the moment demonstration was given on 10 January 1915. Duke topped the performance by taking a local girl, Isabel Letham, on the board with him to surf the waves. Isabel went on to become a pioneer of Australian surfing herself and Duke went down in Australian surfing folk law.
The original board that Duke created, and rode has been kept on display at the Freshwater SLSC since 1952.
Duke Kahanamoku is also commemorated with a statue sculpted by Barry Donohoo, commissioned by Harbord Diggers and Warringah Council in 1994. This forms the showpiece of the Australian Surfers Walk of Fame that highlights mosaic tributes to past Australian World Champions.