Duke Kahanamoku was born in Honolulu, Hawai’i on August 24, 1890. When he was 3 years old his family moved to Waikīkī, where he spent his childhood learning how to be a waterman. Over the next several decades, Kahanamoku shattered records as a swimmer and brought surfing to the world while overcoming rampant racism in a lifetime of personal challenges. As a dark-skinned Pacific Islander, Kahanamoku broke through racial barriers with athletic accomplishments before Joe Louis, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson; yet relatively few outside of Hawaii know the details of his inspiring story and considerable impact. Here is an extensive timeline of the many milestones in the life of Duke Kahanamoku.
Duke Kahanamoku is born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The Kahanamoku family moves to Kalia, Waikiki.
Kahanamoku smashes the world record in the 100-yard freestyle in Honolulu Harbor in the first AAU race in Hawaii.
He qualifies for the U.S. Olympic swim team and goes on to win the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle and the silver medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the Stockholm Olympics.
Kahanamoku introduces surfing to the U.S. Atlantic coast.
He swims in exhibitions in 30 mainland U.S. cities to raise money for the war effort.
Kahanamoku wins gold medals in the 100-meter freestyle and the 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the Antwerp Olympics in Belgium.
Duke Kahanamoku resides in Los Angeles and spends years pursuing an acting career. He finds small roles in many Hollywood films.
He wins the silver medal in the 100-meter freestyle at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
Kahanamoku rescues eight men from the capsized Thelma in Newport Beach, California and recovers the bodies of many others who perished.
As a surfer, he rides an enormous wave for 1.128 miles at Waikiki – likely the longest ride in modern times.
In a career of many eclectic achievements, Kahanamoku is an alternate for the U.S. water polo team at the Los Angeles Olympic Games.
Appointed Sheriff of Honolulu, Hawaii for the first time. He is re-elected 13 times until the post is abolished in 1960.
Kahanamoku marries Nadine Alexander.
Duke Kahanamoku is the official U.S. representative at the Melbourne Olympics.
He is appointed the new state of Hawaii’s Official Ambassador of Aloha.
In his continued presence at Olympic games, Kahanamoku is an official guest at the Tokyo Olympics.
Kahanamoku is inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Kahanamoku is also inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame.
Duke Kahanamoku dies of a heart attack at age 77. A large funeral is held in his honor at Waikiki Beach.
He is posthumously inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
The inauguration of a Waikiki Beach bronze statue commemorating Duke Kahanamoku on the centennial of his birth.
The inauguration of a statue commemorating Kahanamoku in Freshwater, New South Wales, Australia.
He is named “Surfer of the Century” by Surfer Magazine.
A replica of Duke Kahanamoku’s surfboard is installed at New Brighton Beach, Christchurch, New Zealand to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his visit.