Duke Kahanamoku: Google celebrates 'father of modern surfing' with doodle

The Hawaiian once saved eight men from drowning

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The Independent Online

The latest Google Doodle celebrates the 125th birthday of Duke Kahanamoku, a Hawaiian credited with spreading the sport of surfing to California, Australia and New Zealand.

Kahanamoku, or “The Big Kahuna” as he was known, was also a five-time Olympic medallist in swimming, an actor and served as the “Ambassador of Aloha” after Hawaii became an official state.

He was a five-time Olympic gold medallist

“The Duke” was a strong swimmer from an early age, and broke three freestyle world records in 1911, the first time he swam competitively.

He won the gold medal in the 100m freestyle by using the already-famous “Kahanamoku Kick” at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm.

During the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, he won gold medals in the 100m and the relay, and won the silver medal in the 100m freestyle at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

He saved eight men from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean

One morning in 1925, a fishing vessel called the Thelma found herself in the grip of a sudden and violent squall off the coast of Newport Beach, California.

Kahanamoku, who was at the shore preparing for that morning’s ride, rushed into the storm with his surfboard and, followed by three friends, managed to personally save eight of the fishermen’s lives.

The rescue led to surfboards becoming a common tool for rescue swimmers.


He brought surfing to US, then made it popular around the world

Kahanamoku used his fame as a swimmer to bring crowds to surfing events in California and the Atlantic Coast.

He later brought the Hawaiian form of surfing to Australia and New Zealand in 1914 and 1915, then helped popularise the sport along the Southern California coast.

He served as an ambassador for Hawaii and helped the Islands gain statehood

Kahanamoku served as the mostly ceremonial role as sheriff of Honolulu, welcoming politicians and other dignitaries to the islands while sharing Hawaiian culture with the U.S.

After Hawaii became an official state, he was given the paid title of “Ambassador of Aloha”.

He has been honoured with a restaurant chain and a bronze statue

There is a chain of restaurants named after him in California and Hawaii called Duke’s.

A bronze statue at Waikiki beach in Honolulu also honours his memory, showing Kahanamoku standing in front of his surfboard with his arms outstretched. Many place garlands on the statue to honour him.

He died of a heart attack on 22 January, 1968, at the age of 77.

“You know,” he is reported to have said, “there are so many waves coming in all the time, you don't have to worry about that. Take your time —wave come. Let the other guys go; catch another one.”