• Tribute to Duke

  • Tribute to Duke

Duke Kahanamoku
Surfer, Swimmer, Olympian & Ambassador of Aloha

Forever remembered by Harbord Diggers with the statue on McKillop Park, as part of the Surfers Walk of Fame.

Duke Kahanamoku arrived on our shores in December 1914, invited to Australia as the world sprint swimming champion to provide swimming exhibitions. Over a period of time while he stayed at the Boomerang Camp at 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.

It was on 24 December 1914 to a demonstration to the press at Freshwater Beach, that anyone had 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 folklaw.

The original board that Duke created and rode has been kept on display at the Freshwater SLSC since 1952.

Duke Kahanamoku is also remembered with the Statue on our very own headland, erected in 1994, commissioned by Harbord Diggers & Warringah Council and sculpted by Barry Donohoo. This forms the showpiece of the Australian Surfers Walk of Fame that highlights mosaic tributes to past Australian World Champions.

CHRONOLOGY of a remarkable life

1890: Born August 24 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

1912: Wins Gold Medal in 100m freestyle at Stockholm Olympic Games

1914-15: Popularises surfing in Australia during a exhibition tour

1920: Wins Gold Medal in 100m freestyle at Antwerp Olympic Games

1922-1929: Acted in around 25 movies

1924: Wins Silver Medal in 100m freestyle at Paris Olympic Games

1925: Saves 8 fisherman drowning off the coast of Corona del Mar, California

1932: Wins Bronze Medal on US Water Polo team. His Olympic Career spanned 20 years, a record at the time.

1934: Elected City & County Sherriff; re-elected 12 times

1940: Marries Nadine Alexander

1956: Melbourne Olympics, Olympic Representative

1959: Hawaii becomes 50th State & Duke became its Official Ambassador of Aloha.

1965: First person inducted into both the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the International Surfing Hall of Fame. Later inducted into Olympic Hall of Fame and Surboard Shaper Hall of Fame.

1968: Dies in Honolulu on January 22, aged 77

1990: Kuhio Beach Statue on Waikiki Beach dedicated to Duke Kahanamoku

1994: Statue at Freshwater dedicated to Duke Kahanamoku

1999: Named Surfer of the Century by Surfer Magazine


In Hawai'i we greet friends, loved ones and strangers with Aloha, which means with love.

Aloha is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality, which makes Hawai'i renowned as the world's centre of understanding and fellowship.

Try meeting or leaving people with Aloha.

You'll be surprised by their reaction.

I believe it and it is my creed.

Aloha to you.

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku


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