Duke Kahanamoku

by Jordan from San Diego

"Don't talk - keep it in your heart."

“Duke” Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, was the father of modern surfing. He was famous for his legendary surfing and his unbelievable speed in swimming. Born in an old traditional Hawaiian family in Honolulu, Duke loved nothing more than being in the water. He was a three time Olympic Gold Medalist and two time Olympic Silver Medalist. He is considered to be the pioneer of surfing because he brought the sport all around the world with him from Hawaii to Australia.(Wikipedia) Duke truly understood and exerted the true meaning of Aloha everywhere he went. Duke has long since passed on, but has left his footprint on the world because he was a significantly admired role model whether it came to surfing, swimming, or just being a great person in general.

Duke was one of the last full-blooded Hawaiians. In fact, his grandfather was a Hawaiian high chief who passed on the traditional beliefs that would help him become a man of honor. "He never drank or smoked and if he did get into a fight it was after getting hassled and even then he wouldn’t punch, preferring to slap instead." Duke respected himself and everyone else around him too much to even think about using drugs or alcohol.(Gale) He never fought because he knew that there was nothing to gain from pointless violence. He valued respect almost above everything else. Before Duke’s first defeat by Johnny Weissmuller in 1924 at the Paris Games he said to Weissmuller: “Johnny, good luck. It doesn’t matter who wins today. The most important thing in this race is to get the American flag up there three times. Let’s do it.” (Gale) Duke didn’t care who won or lost. All that mattered to him was that his country was represented. He respected everyone, even his opponents, proving the great character that he was.

The great Duke, the father of modern surfing. Duke traveled all around the world to make surfing an internationally known sport. Duke traveled to Sydney, Australia to demonstrate surfing.(Wikipedia) This was the first time surfing was introduced to Australia. Duke traveled all the way to Australia because he loved surfing so much he wanted to share it with everyone. And not just Australia, he also traveled to Japan where he rode perhaps the biggest wave he has ever surfed. In 1917 a mammoth wave generated as the result of an earthquake in Japan.(Gale) But despite the apparent danger Duke fearlessly jumped into the ocean and tamed the wave. Duke knew it could have killed him but he went into the water anyway. He saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity and took it. Duke spread the word of surfing through his travels across the globe all the while showcasing his amazing skills with the surfboard.


After the end of Duke's days of being a Olympic contender he began to take on extracurricular activities. During War World II Duke trained American Red Cross volunteers in water lifesaving techniques and toured the nation with other American aquatic champions to raise funds for the Red Cross.(Gale) Since he couldn't participate in the Olympics due to the war Duke helped the cause of the war by raising money and teaching lifesaving techniques. By doing this Duke indirectly was saving people's lives. Duke was also, literally a lifesaver. In 1925 he and a group of friends saw a boat capsize during a fierce storm off the coast of southern California. Without hesitation, Kahanamoku grabbed his surfboard and, making three trips through violent waves, personally saved eight people in a disaster that claimed seventeen out of twenty-nine lives.(Gale) Duke did the best he could to save most of the people. He did so risking his own life. He got nothing out of it. No money, no reward, no prize, he just did what was right. And that is a true hero.

Duke Kahanamoku really is a hero and inspiration to everyone around the world. He was highly respected for his amazing surfing talents and his speed in the water as a swimmer. He achieved his goals without drugs or alcohol but rather hard work and effort. He taught us that respect and honor are only one of the many components that make a hero. You must find what makes you a hero, don’t try to be something you're not, but find out what makes you special. Duke Kahanamoku inspires me to be the best I can be by developing my own moral values and earning things through hard work. Duke may be remembered to some as just another local surfer boy, but to me he will be remembered as the true spirit of Aloha.

Page created on 1/12/2011 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 1/6/2017 11:45:48 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Gale Research Database - Where most of my data is from.
Wikipedia - Lots of information but not completely reliable.

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