Duke Kahanamoku, 1890 - 1968
The Name "Duke"
Interestingly, even though this great waterman was certainly deserving of the title of duke, this was actually his given name. He was the eldest of six sons, his father also being Duke having been named that in connection with the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1868 to the Sandwich Isles, then a protectorate of Great Britain. Our Duke is the ultimate Patron Saint of this Swim.
Young Duke the Swimmer
Born on Wakiki Beach, young Duke was completely at home in the water. He exceled in swimming at an early age and by the time of his teens was a swim leader in the Islands. When Mrs Fullard-Leo sent his times in to the National AAU, the officials responded with "What are they timing with out there in that distant Pacific Territory, an alarm clock" ? !
Born on "Our" Beach
Our Duke was born in Wakiki on the Paoa family propery next to Fort DeRussey where the Hilton Hawaiian Village now stands and where our Wakikiki Roughwater Swim has always finished. The City of Honolulu has recognized both him and his birthplace by naming the two surrounding streets, Paoa Lane and Duke Kahanamoku Lane and the beautiful newly redone beachfront lagoon, Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon.
Over the years when not excelling in swimming, Duke had a separate "career" as a famous surfer. His fame in this area long ago reached iconic levels. His famous 2-mile surf board ride from outer "Castles" to the Natatorium has become a legendary historic feat passed on by generations of impressed Waikiki surfers.
This ride is memorialized in the Hawaii Hall of Fame of Bishop Museum. In addition to endless print acolades, the US Post Office struck a special postage stamp, Austrailia has a double life-size statue of him recognizing his bringing surfing Down Under in the early days and yet another statue of him resides in the dead center of Waikiki on the ocean side of Kalakaua Boulevard. Also, there is an excellent permanent biographical exhibit of Duke on the Ewa side of the Hilton Hotel, ground floor, just in from Kahanamoku Lane.
For many years Duke was the "Sheriff" of Honolulu and the main chief of welcoming dignitaries to Hawaii. In 1940 Duke married Nadine Alexander.
In the 1960's Duke had their sailboat, NaDu, moored in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor next to Cotton's Torea, newly arrived from a circumnavigation, on T-Pier.
The Waikiki Swimming Club
The founder of the WRS made connections with Duke who was always cordial and "talked story" about boating and his swimming days in the Waikiki Swimming Club before he joined the Outrigger Canoe Club. This contributed to the naming of our club, The Waikiki Swim Club.
Our Ultimate Patron Saint
In summary, an array of circumstances have allied the Waikiki Roughwater Swim to the memory of Duke Kahanamoku. The Swim's basic support organization being named "Wakikik Swim Club" after Duke's original Waikiki Swimming Club;
Duke being born on the WRS finishing line property; the founder's acquaintenceship; the founder's distant in-law relationship via the Cotton, Fletcher and Toberman families. This is why we proclaim Duke the ultimate patron saint of the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.
Enter Mrs Fullard-Leo and the King of Sweden
Duke dispelled these doubts thoroughly in person at the Stockhold Olympics in 1912 where he was honored with an Olympic Gold Medal presented by the King of Sweden. In his swimming exploits he was helped in no small way by the unseen efforts of the second of our patron saints, Mrs E. Fullard-Leo, who sponsored him in many ways in the world of sports officialdom. She and Duke are both honored in the Bishop Museum Hall of Fame.
King of Sweden awards Duke
Olympic gold medal, 1912
It has been said that Duke revolutionized competitive swimming in the USA when he set three world records early on by large margins with his powerful stroke and his new flutter kick. Onward and upward by the age of 22 he is off to the Stockholm Olympics in 1912 followed by Antwerp in 1920, Paris in 1924 and Los Angeles in 1932 at age 42. In all he garnered three gold medals and two silver medals.
Duke Statue Central Waikiki
Rare Historic Pictures of Duke's Early Record-setting Swims,
Honolulu Harbor, circa 1916
Duke's LIfetime Playground
The Hawaii Olympic Team
Sailing Off to the Olympics
The World's Utmost Iconic Surfer
Nadine Kahanamoku continues to support our Waikiki Swim as a famous widow, 1970's