Duke Kahanamoku: Everything About His Life

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Duke Kahanamoku, the five-time Olympic medalist swimmer, was most popular during the 1800s and mid-1900s.

“The Duke” and “The Big Kahuna” is the nickname of the Olympic medalist swimmer Duke.

Kahanamoku was not only a professional swimmer but also involved in film, politics, and business.

Duke was also a Scottish Rite Freemason, Shriner, law enforcement officer, and beach volleyball player.

Late Duke Kahanamoku

Kahanamoku, the legendary swimmer, was a man of enormous ability, skill, and commitment.

Likewise, he was the man who invented the flutter kick exercise, which people find one of the essential exercises these days.

Let’s move forward in the article to know every aspect of the life of the legendary swimmer.

Quick Facts | Duke Kahanamoku:

Full Name Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku
Date of Birth August 24, 1890
Birth Place Haleakala, Honolulu, Kingdom of Hawaii
Nick Name “The Big Kahuna”
Religion Christian
Nationality Hawaiian 
Ethnicity Unknown 
Zodiac Sign  Virgo  
Death Date  January 22, 1968 
Death Place  Honolulu, Hawaii
Height 6’1″ (1.85 meters)
Weight 190 lb (86 kg)
Eye Color Dark Brown 
Hair Color Black 
Father’s Name Duke Halapu Kahanamoku 
Mother’s Name Julia Paakonia Lonokahikini Paoa
Siblings Samuel, David, Louis, Sargent, Bernice, Maria, Bill, and Kapiolani Kahanamoku
Education Kamehameha Schools – Kapālama Campus,
President William McKinley High School,
Queen Kaʻahumanu Elementary School
Marital Status Married
Wife Nadine Alexander (m. 1940-1968)
Kids None
Profession Swimmer, Surfer, Water poloist, Actor
Club  Waikiki Beach Boys
Strokes  Freestyle 
Net Worth  $1.9 million
Social Media  None
Merch Book:
Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku
Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku
Hobbies Surfing
Last Update  June 2024

Physical Appearance | Duke Kahanamoku:

Duke was a prominent swimmer, a surfer who had a dark skin tone as of his ethnic background.

The surfer had a height of 1.85 m, and to complement his appearance, he weighed 190 lbs.

Similarly, Duke had a muscular body and ripped six-pack as he invented the exercise flutter kick.

The Olympic gold medalist had black hair, and to compliment that, he had a dark-brown eye.

Personal Life | Duke Kahanamoku:

As indicated by Kahanamoku, he was born and brought up in Honolulu, Hawaii, at Haleakala.

Duke was born to his parents Duke Halapu Kahanamoku (father) and Julia Paakonia (mother). Similarly, his father used to be a police officer.

Haleakala is the home of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, which was subsequently changed over into the Arlington Hotel.

Similarly, Duke Kahanamoku had five siblings, including Samuel and Sargent, and three sisters.

Duke passed out from Waikiki Grammar School, Kaahumanu School, and he was good at studying, but he couldn’t graduate due to his family’s low background.

Experiencing childhood with the edges of Waikiki, Kahanamoku spent quite a bit of his childhood at the ocean side, where he fostered his surfing and swimming abilities.

In his childhood, Kahanamoku favored a traditional surfboard, which he called his “Papa Nui,” developed after designing old Hawaiian boards.

Duke Kahanamoku Surfing

Duke himself specially made Duke’s surfboard from Koa trees, and it used to be 16 feet long and 114 pounds in weight.

On August 11, 1911, Kahanamoku beat the current world record by 4.6 seconds in the saltwater of Honolulu Harbor in the 100-yard freestyle.

Duke was likewise a gifted ukulele player, and he became the world sensation when he set the world record in Honolulu.

The Hawaiian local started traveling many parts of the world to show his notable “Kahanamoku Kick” swimming method.

Duke was the star of the very first surfing show on Freshwater Beach in Sydney, Australia, on December 23, 1914.

Likewise, Kahanamoku wedded Nadine Alexander in 1940, a dance instructor at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Surprisingly, the couple didn’t have any kids.

Duke was named after Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, while Prince visited Hawaii as a fabulous reality.

Professional Career | Duke Kahanamoku: 

Kahanamoku went universally to perform swimming presentations in the middle of Olympic rivalries and in the wake of resigning from the Olympics.

The one who advocated surfing throughout the planet was a Hawaiian. During his voyaging shows, he gave surfing demonstrations.

Before Duke promoted the surfing game, only the Hawaiians knew about the game previously.

In 1912, while in Southern California, Duke was the primary professional man to highlight surfing in the central area of America.

The surfer was the primary person drafted into both the United States Olympic Hall of Fame and Swimming and Surfing Halls of Fame.

Also, Kahanamoku worked in Hollywood as a foundation actor. Afterward, he played a personal entertainer in different movies in Southern California.

Like this, Duke constructed contacts with individuals who could assist with getting the news out to the world regarding surfing.

Duke Kahanamoku giving Surfing classes

Kahanamoku was an individual from the Los Angeles Athletic Club, where he filled in as a lifeguard and contended in both swimming and water polo.

He was the prominent individual drafted into the Swimming Hall of Fame and the Surfing Hall of Fame.

The Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championships in Hawaii for the first time and changed the place.

The main significant expert surfing challenge occasion at any point is held in the colossal surf on the North Shore of Oahu.

He is an individual member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Later Kahanamoku was chosen to fill in as the Sheriff of Honolulu, Hawaii, from 1932 to 1961.

Similarly, during World War II, he additionally filled in as a tactical cop for the United States.

Olympics Career:

In 1912, the excellent swimmer Kahanamoku qualified for the United States Olympic swimming crew; likewise, he procured gold and a silver decoration for the United States group.

Similarly, the local Hawaiian Duke won gold awards in two 100 meters and the relay in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics.

During the 1924 Olympics in Paris, Duke won a silver award in the 100 meters. But, be that as it may, his sibling Samuel got the bronze decoration.

Nonetheless, after the age of 34, Duke Kahanamoku didn’t earn any awards.

Duke, however, was there in the 1932 Summer Olympics, representing the United States in water polo as a substitute.

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The late three-time Olympic gold victor would be delighted that the game he advanced is presently essential for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

After the IOC supported its consideration appeal in 2016, surfing was viewed as an Olympic game.

Charity Works | Duke Kahanamoku:

Back in Duke’s days, he was the central Hawaiian participating at The Outrigger Canoe Club.

Counting thirds of a similar Outrigger Canoe Club, Duke at first began the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation.

Additionally, they had net resources of $1,239,507. Indeed, their profit came from investment, brand name pay, raising support, and donations.

Consistently, they grant scholarships of around $76,547 and spend around $22,698 in brand name-related legal expenses. Also, as a philanthropic association, they work to help an individual monetarily.

Furthermore, they hold the Dukes Ocean Fest, commended each August to check Duke’s birthday.

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They hold many different occasions incorporating Duke Kahanamoku Boys and Girls Club, Duke Sports, and Fitness Day.

Brand Endorsement | Duke Kahanamoku:

In his initial days, Duke wasn’t well off with finance. In any case, later, his distinction got him various promising brand underwriting openings.

At first, he marked a five-year manage the brand, Branfleet, an attire firm.

Together, they jumped on the pattern of “Aloha Shirts.” Herewith, Duke included their clothing as the endorser.

In like manner, it was uniquely in 1932 when Duke became the first to wear the outdoor clothing accessories in the water.

Duke Kahanamoku wearing outdoor cloth in water

Owen Churchill helped him with the swimming clothes and equipment. Frequently named as the father of Surfing, Duke remains the awe-inspiring model for “Aloha” brands.

Indeed, they address the Duke Kahanamoku brand, which portrays Hawaii’s way of life and culture.

Thinking back to the 1960s, Duke helped with building a dance club named after him in Waikiki.

During the 1930s, Duke Kahanamoku ran a Union Oil service station at the intersection of Nuuanu and Pauoa streets.

Simultaneously, Duke additionally ran two different gas stations in Waikiki close to Kalakaua and Seaside roads.

Acting Journey 

Duke Kahanamoku additionally had a fruitful acting career besides swimming, surfing, etc.

Kahanamoku began acting during the 1920s, with a job in “Adventure,” delivered in 1925. In like manner, he used to play Noah Noa, a person on the show.

Additionally, the Hawaiin has been highlighted in a few movies. For instance, he played an Indian boss in the film “The Pony Express.”

Similarly, Duke featured in the movie “No Father To Guide Him.” Also, he played a role of a lifeguard and Tamb Itam in the film “Lord Jim.”

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The following year, in 1926, Duke featured as a private skipper in the film “Old Ironsides.”

What’s more, he played a Hawaiian adolescent in the 1927 film “Hula” and as Lono in the movie “Isle of Sunken Gold.”

Death & Legacy

Duke Kahanamoku passed on at 77 years of age due to respiratory failure on January 22, 1968.

First and foremost, a massive parade of grievers, accompanied by a 30-man police escort. Then, at that point, they continued to take Duke across town to Waikiki Beach for his ocean internment.

What’s more, the function was driven by Reverend Abraham Akaka. He was a minister of Kawaiahao Church.

In addition, Duke Kahanamoku’s family dispersed the Duke’s cinders (ashes) into the sea.

As recently expressed, Kahanamoku is the prominent individual enlisted into both the Surfing and the Swimming Halls of Fames.

He has a sculpture in Freshwater Beach, Australia, on the northern tip of South Wales, where he held his swimming exhibitions.

Statue Of Legendary Surfer
Duke Kahanamoku Statue

There are additional sculptures devoted to Duke in different areas as well. One of the sculptures is in his Waikiki internment site.

Moreover, it was revealed in 1990 by the City of Honolulu. Jan Gordon Fisher shaped the bronze sculpture of Duke, and the sculpture is 9 feet tall.

On February 28, 2015, New Zealand uncovered a copy of Kahanamoku’s surfboard to stamp the 100th-commemoration visit of Duke to New Brighton.

Achievements | Duke Kahanamoku:

Duke was a renowned sports person with a variety of careers, and in his long journey, he has earned many achievements; some of them are here:

  • Olympic Gold Medal
  • International Swimming Hall of Fame
  • Surfing Hall of Fame
  • U.S. Olympic Committee Hall of Fame
  • Olympic Silver Medal
  • Gold Medal at Amateur Athletic Union
  • Statue at Freshwater, NSW, Australia


Why was Duke Kahanamoku named the surfer of the century in 1999?

Kahanamoku utilized his athletic popularity to carry the old specialty of surfing to the American culture.

Before him, surfing was a game practically unknown outside of the islands of Hawaii.

Subsequently, Surfer magazine named him the surfer of the century in 1999.

Sanjib Sah
Sanjib Sah
Sanjib Sah is an engineer and content writer passionate about sports and athletics. With a background in engineering and a love for all things active, Sanjib brings a unique perspective to the world of sports writing. Whether he is covering the latest trends in sports technology or sharing tips on improving your game, Sanjib's words are always rooted in a deep appreciation for players' hard work and dedication everywhere. In his free time, you can find him hitting the courts or hitting the trails, always looking for new ways to challenge himself and improve his skills.

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