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Duke Kahanamoku biography and life timeline

Duke Kahanamoku at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. Photo courtesy of the DeLaVega Family Collection.

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.

August 24, 1890

THE HAWAIIAN

Duke Kahanamoku is born in Honolulu, Hawaii.

August 24, 1890
1893

The Kahanamoku family moves to Kalia, Waikiki.

1893
August 12, 1911

THE COMPETITOR

Kahanamoku smashes the world record in the 100-yard freestyle in Honolulu Harbor in the first AAU race in Hawaii.

August 12, 1911
1912
THE OLYMPIAN

THE OLYMPIAN

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.

1912
1914

Kahanamoku introduces surfing to the U.S. Atlantic coast.

1914
1918

THE AMBASSADOR

He swims in exhibitions in 30 mainland U.S. cities to raise money for the war effort.

1918
1920

Kahanamoku wins gold medals in the 100-meter freestyle and the 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the Antwerp Olympics in Belgium.

1920
1922

THE STAR

Duke Kahanamoku resides in Los Angeles and spends years pursuing an acting career. He finds small roles in many Hollywood films.

1924

He wins the silver medal in the 100-meter freestyle at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

1924
June 14, 1925
THE HERO

THE HERO

Kahanamoku rescues eight men from the capsized Thelma in Newport Beach, California and recovers the bodies of many others who perished.

June 14, 1925WATCH MORE  
1929

As a surfer, he rides an enormous wave for 1.128 miles at Waikiki – likely the longest ride in modern times.

1929
1932

In a career of many eclectic achievements, Kahanamoku is an alternate for the U.S. water polo team at the Los Angeles Olympic Games.

1932
1934

Appointed Sheriff of Honolulu, Hawaii for the first time. He is re-elected 13 times until the post is abolished in 1960.

1934
1940

Kahanamoku marries Nadine Alexander.

1940
1956

Duke Kahanamoku is the official U.S. representative at the Melbourne Olympics.

1956
1960

He is appointed the new state of Hawaii’s Official Ambassador of Aloha.

1960
1964

In his continued presence at Olympic games, Kahanamoku is an official guest at the Tokyo Olympics.

1964
1965

THE LEGEND

Kahanamoku is inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

1965
1966

Kahanamoku is also inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame.

1966
January 22, 1968

Duke Kahanamoku dies of a heart attack at age 77. A large funeral is held in his honor at Waikiki Beach.

January 22, 1968
1984

He is posthumously inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

1984
1990

THE ICON

The inauguration of a Waikiki Beach bronze statue commemorating Duke Kahanamoku on the centennial of his birth.

1990
1994

The inauguration of a statue commemorating Kahanamoku in Freshwater, New South Wales, Australia.

1994
1999

He is named “Surfer of the Century” by Surfer Magazine.

1999
2015

A replica of Duke Kahanamoku’s surfboard is installed at New Brighton Beach, Christchurch, New Zealand to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his visit.

2015

 

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