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S36 Ep3

Waterman – Duke: Ambassador of Aloha

Premiere: 5/10/2022 | 00:01:56 |

Narrated by Jason Momoa, discover the inspiring story and considerable impact of five-time Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku. He shattered swimming records and globalized surfing while overcoming racism in a lifetime of personal challenges.



About the Episode

Five-time Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku shattered records as a swimmer and brought surfing to the world while overcoming rampant racism in a lifetime of personal challenges. American Masters: Waterman — Duke: Ambassador of Aloha explores his life, career and struggles with prejudice. 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. Narrated by Jason Momoa (Aquaman, Game of Thrones, Dune), this new documentary reveals Kahanamoku’s influence on surfing’s global spread, his life-saving achievements and the obstacles he conquered both within and outside the sporting world. American Masters: Waterman — Duke: Ambassador of Aloha premieres nationwide Tuesday, May 10 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app.

Using rare archival footage, contemporary visuals and new interviews with Laird Hamilton (big wave surfer), Kelly Slater (11-time world champion surfer), Carissa Moore (Olympic surfing gold medalist), Jack Johnson (musician), David Davis (author, “Waterman”), Moses Goods (playwright and actor, “Duke”), Dr. Isaiah Helekunihi Walker (author, “Waves of Resistance”), Fred Hemmings (world champion surfer), Kelia Moniz (world champion surfer), Kai Lenny (big wave surfer) and others. The documentary presents Kahanamoku’s rise to fame and how he became the face of a changing Hawaii as it evolved from an isolated island kingdom to a multi-ethnic American paradise.

After his appearance in the 1924 Olympics, Kahanamoku began dabbling in Hollywood and started to appear in movies by 1925. Unlike other Olympic champions who went on to further glory by starring in blockbusters, Kahanamoku’s dream of playing Tarzan in the movies never materialized. Instead, the role went to his friend and Olympic swimming rival Johnny Weissmuller. Though he represented Pacific Islanders in minor Hollywood roles, Kahanamoku became best known as the “Ambassador of Aloha” playing a vital role in supporting the burgeoning tourist industry.

By the time Hawaii became the 50th state, surfing had spread throughout America and around the world because of Kahanamoku’s influence and celebrity. Through his popular surfing exhibitions, he brought the sport to both coasts of the United States and to Freshwater Beach near Sydney, Australia. Additionally, he famously used his surfboard to save eight people from a shipwreck off Newport Beach in California, which was highly documented in news media.

"I got to make good."

American Masters: Waterman — Duke: Ambassador of Aloha is a production of Sidewinder Films, a division of The Foundation for Global Sports Development and Ungerleider-Ulich Productions in association with American Masters Pictures. Directed by Isaac Halasima. Produced by David Ulich and Dr. Steven Ungerleider. Michael Cascio is executive producer. Chet Thomas is Co-Producer. Michael Kantor is executive producer of American Masters.

About American Masters
Now in its 37th season on PBS, American Masters illuminates the lives and creative journeys of our nation’s most enduring artistic giants—those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape—through compelling, unvarnished stories. Setting the standard for documentary film profiles, the series has earned widespread critical acclaim: 28 Emmy Awards—including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special—two News & Documentary Emmys, 14 Peabodys, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards, an Oscar, and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of more than 250 masters past and present, the American Masters website offers full episodes, film outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the podcast “American Masters: Creative Spark,” educational resources, digital original series and more. The series is a production of The WNET Group.

American Masters is available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.

About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the community-supported home of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider; and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading nonprofit public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.


Original series production funding for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Rosalind P. Walter Foundation, Cheryl & Philip Milstein family, Judith & Burton Resnick, Seton J. Melvin, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Vital Projects Fund, Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen & James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation and public television viewers.


♪♪ -Good evening, everybody, and welcome to 'This Is Your Life.'

Now, believe it or not, but tonight's subject is actually on our stage for 'This Is Your Life' right now.

In fact, he's looking over a setting familiar to our subject who thinks he's going to make a film travelog based on his native Hawaii.

And the audience has been told to keep very quiet.

All right. Let's walk into the studio and pull our surprise right now.

Here we go. -Gee, whiz.

-They got it really fixed up around here, haven't they?

No, no. I'm doing a show in the studio tonight.

As a matter of fact, I'm doing it right now.

Yeah, I'm doing it right now.

And you're a very important part of it.

-You go ahead right along now.

-Because, Duke Kahanamoku, this is your life.

[ Applause ] -A brown-skinned man being celebrated on national television.

When you come across something that is just so genuine and so good, you can't help but drop whatever you think you know about people.

He changed lives just by being who he was.

-You betcha. -He was a very quiet, shy, humble man.

He didn't like to be in the forefront.

-Only United States swimmer to have participated in five Olympic Games.

-People talked about Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, Jack Johnson.

And lost in the shuffle is Duke's role as a racial pioneer.

-Duke was one of the world's greatest athletes in the 20th century.

You know, I don't care what your opinion is.

Name some other American athlete that had statues erected to them in three different countries.

-He is a smile. He is arms wide open.

Statuesque athlete of aloha.

-I don't know if the average person knows who Duke Kahanamoku is, but to us, he's the king of surfing.

-Duke showed his aloha by spreading surfing around the world.

Look at the tree of surfing -- wakeboarding, snowboarding, skateboarding. Every board sport in the world is stemmed from this Polynesian sport.

-You alone, Duke, saved the lives of eight... -He rescued so many people.

Lifesaving wasn't a profession back then.

-Well, that's a long story.

-Yeah. [ Laughter ] -He's a real renaissance man.

I mean, a whole new sport, breaking records in another sport, playing music and, like, sharing the aloha spirit with people around the world.

He was the ambassador of aloha. He used his platform to do good.

-A Hawaiian to the end.

The amount of pride that he was able to give to his people.

He was one of the biggest celebrities in the world.

-I think for anyone to have that pressure of being the first Polynesian to go around the world, kind of introducing your culture, that would be a heavy burden.

♪♪ -Because Duke was such a cool figure and had so much aloha, maybe we don't understand.

It was probably much more difficult than we assume.

-This is your life, Duke Kahanamoku, world champion athlete, a living legend whose love of people represents the true spirit of your beloved island.

♪♪ ♪♪ -Samoans, Tongans, Hawaiians, and many of us live in the Polynesian Triangle.

[ Ship horn blares ] -Hawaiians have developed different island kingdoms here amongst the chains.

-In the 1700s, warring chiefs initiated one of the bloodiest periods of Hawaiian history.

Which one of the chiefs would unite the islands and the people?

-King Kamehameha brought wars to an end, uniting all of Hawaii under his control and creating a kingdom recognized and respected around the world.

-King Kamehameha's son ordered all of the temples to be destroyed and religious images burned.

-That was 2,000 years of law.

-It was just poof, gone overnight.

This opened the door to missionaries because Hawaii had no religion.

-Their sons and grandsons went into the sugarcane business.

-Their economic power ensured that their influence in the kingdom increased.

-The Hawaiian kingdom's cabinet was filled with very corrupt businessmen.

-Queen Lili'uokalani tried to restore power to the monarchy.

-They saw this as an act of revolution.

♪♪ President Grover Cleveland called for the restoration of the Hawaiian government.

-Congress rejected that recommendation.

-There was active suppression of the speaking and teaching of the Hawaiian language.

-Forbidden to teach esoteric law, forbidden to teach hula.

-As our old people died and the young forgot our language, we lost resources for passing on our history through oral tradition.

-Hawaiians were in danger of becoming extinct, a minority in their own country.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Water flowing beach to beach, continent to continent, connecting the world, a power unmatched on the Earth.

Offering an abundance of life to the wise and a swift death to the unwary.

Its vast expanse so dizzying that throughout history it had been seen as a border from the rest of the world.

But for the Hawaiian watermen in that seemingly endless barrier of water, they saw roadways connecting to other lands.

In the deep where most would fear drowning, they saw a provider for life.

And when surrounded by some of the most imposing and towering giants unleashed into the sea, a waterman found a way to play.

♪♪ For the waterman, shaping a surfboard is a sacred event.

Choosing the tree, shaping the wood, these were part of bringing the spirit of what was in the wood out.

They weren't just making a board.

They were creating new life.

Generations of knowledge and practice poured into a board so they could provide food for their people and become one with the wave.

Yet by the time Duke was born in 1890, the practices and traditions of Hawaii, including the ways of the watermen, were dying as the world modernized.

-He was raised in the climate of that whole change.

And I think it was only natural then for him to turn to the ocean where Hawaiians can still have that cultural affiliation, this cultural association with being Hawaiian.

-It's our place of meditation pretty much, and just being at peace and happiness all at once.

-The ocean is our church.

The ocean is our school.

The ocean is our workplace, you know?

-At 14, Duke Kahanamoku left the school that refused his traditions and denied his language and instead embraced his kuleana, his responsibility to breathe life to the old ways, to master the ultimate Hawaiian tradition.

Becoming a waterman.

-He felt as a Hawaiian that he should keep that alive and bring it back to Hawaiian and make them proud.

-You know, his father taught him how to dive and fish and surf and sail and paddle and swim.

-This is what we're supposed to know.

Just how to take care of ourselves, how to find food, how to build boards, for example, whatever, the thing that was part of who we are traditionally.

-A waterman is someone who can do everything in the water and sometimes the most dangerous elements that the ocean can offer for not only fun, for not only food, but then also to keep it well-preserved for the next generation.

-As a kid in Hawaii, you wanted to be a waterman, and the Duke was the 'Big Kahuna.'

-As Duke focused on becoming a true waterman, mastering ancient Hawaiian skills and practices, he was also cultivating what he felt was one of the most important philosophies and teaching of the Hawaiian culture.

-We got in a conversation one day and I said, 'What do you think the most important Hawaiian word is?'

And he says, 'Without question, 'aloha.'' -To most, 'aloha' simply means 'hello' or 'goodbye.'

But to the Hawaiians, the spirit of aloha is a way of being.

-When we take 'aloha' and if you broke it down, the 'alo' is to face one another and the 'ha' comes from here.

It's in your na'au, your piko, your heart, whatever you want to say, but it's sharing your spirit because we all have a spirit, right?

And that spirit is what you share with that person.

You give that freely of yourself.

-Duke understood that 'aloha' is not a salutation or a word of greeting or goodbye.

Aloha was a lifestyle.

-It's pretty much everything. It's just how we live our life.

It's just everything we do, we should have aloha with it.

Aloha I feel like best relates to love.

-That's how it was taught from from the beach, at the house, wherever you were at is that you have to have aloha.

If you don't have aloha, then [Scoffs] you're not alive.

-And Duke's aloha spirit would be tried early on.

When the first American athletic club was created in Hawaii, it brought something that was completely foreign to the Hawaiian way of life -- segregation.

-When the Outriggers formed, it took its model from the mainland and from England and other places where you're not going to have the working class.

It was also whites only.

So Duke is not an original member of the Outrigger Club.

He's not allowed to join.

-Yet the first issue of created by the club's founder, Alexander Hume Ford, to promote sports in Hawaii featured a statuesque surfing Duke on the cover.

The club was clearly confident about Duke.

He was their role model.

-Duke was then embraced by everyone to be part of that elite club, but he was the teacher.

I'm sure that Duke was taken advantage of a lot in his life because of how kind he was.

But Duke being the Hawaiian he is and was, he just smiled and moved on.

Duke's brothers came to Duke and said, 'We're going to start our own club and we're calling it Hui Nalu to surf the waves.'

-And it was mixed. There were Hawaiians, haole, hapa haoles, and there were also women.

I think that's in its own way a better counter or a more -- you know, a smarter counter.

And then they started competing against Outrigger Canoe Club.

I'm assuming there was animosity, but with the love the Hawaiian people have, the Hawaiians were actually teaching them how to surf, teaching them how to steer a canoe, teaching them how to catch a wave.

♪♪ ♪♪ -What, Duke?

-I didn't think I'd ever get on this program.

-You never believed you'd be on this program.

Let's tell the story, ladies and gentlemen, of a little Hawaiian boy who became the most famous swimmer in the world.

-At this time, Duke was actually more fond of rowing than he was of swimming.

I know because I rode against him in many races.

-Yeah, the voice of an old competitor, Duke, one of your closest friends, George 'Dad' Center, world-famous swimming... [ Applause ] If Duke was more interested in rowing, how did he become the world's best-known swimmer?

-Well, after we practiced rowing, the various crews would engage in swimming races and Duke would always win.

-August 12, 1911, was an important date for Duke, wasn't it, Dad?

-Yes. It was the very first time Duke entered a formal swimming meet.

-This was the first time the prestigious Amateur Athletic Union would hold a race on the islands.

So for the Hawaiian elites, this was an opportunity to finally be recognized by the rest of the country.

But for Duke, he was just there to have some fun.

-You know, you don't know. You got no idea.

They lived down here.

They fished, they surfed, they kayaked.

It was not like they went out there to swim races.

So now they tell somebody, 'I want you to swim against this guy.'

'Well, what for?' 'Let's see how fast he is.'

'Swim as fast as you can over there.'

'Oh, okay. Whatever.' You know?

A waterman, he's going to be playing in the water.

♪♪ ♪♪ -This is not a time period in which people are groomed from childhood to be Olympic stars.

That hadn't happened yet.

So Duke innately has the swimming talent.

Plus, he's got a body that will work well for swimming.

-That's exactly what it was. It's natural for him.

And so when he jumped in and swam, he had to swim faster than himself.

It wasn't about the other person.

I don't think he ever thought anything about it.

He just had to be faster than himself.

♪♪ -It's his home turf. I mean, he knew those waters better than pretty much any person alive.

And it was about, 'I'm going to beat these guys.'

♪♪ -The timers couldn't believe their stopwatches because they showed that he had shattered the world record not by fractions, but by whole seconds.

-Duke swam 100 yards in 55 and 2 tenths seconds, and the world's record was 1 minute flat.

-There were two races that day.

Duke didn't just break both records.

He shattered them.

Hawaiians came into this excited for national recognition, but Duke gave them the world's spotlight.

-We're talking seconds in a race that takes seconds and literally in a minute and a half, he changed the direction of his life.

He was now on the world stage, even though the world wasn't ready for him.

-Most people don't believe it, and they're like, 'Ha, what is this? Who is this brown guy?

And the currents must have been helping him or the weather.

There's no way this is legitimate.'

It's so -- It's so abbreviated from what the existing records are that once the information gets back to the U.S. mainland, people say, 'No, no, no, no, no, that can't be possible.

This guy couldn't have done it.

He couldn't have done it that quickly.'

-They didn't believe that it was possible.

They never heard of this guy.

They couldn't pronounce his name.

They refused to accept Duke's world records.

-They presume, 'Well, you don't really know how the tides work.

You don't really know how to deal with a stopwatch.'

I mean, that's -- it's just plain insult.

Duke was used to being treated as a second-class citizen, being Hawaiian.

What the AAU did was a slap in the face to all of Hawaii, Hawaiians, haole, et cetera.

And here you had the haole powerhouses in Hawaii very proud of the fact that they were able to put on an AAU meet.

The reaction was, 'You don't count.

You're just Hawaii, and you don't know what you're doing.'

-The AAU left open the possibility that if Duke would compete against their best swimmers, they would be interested in seeing him perform.

But not in Hawaii.

-They've got to do it again to confirm that Duke really can swim that fast.

There are no corporate sponsorships.

And to get from the Hawaiian Islands to North America and then all the way across the Atlantic to Europe means a lot of money.

-What happened? The people came to his rescue.

They held baseball games. They held dances.

They did any kind of fundraiser they could.

They gave quarters and dollars, whatever they could.

-Not just Hawaiians, but haole, Asian, Philippine.

-Sometimes it was at the level of a Chinese laundry person giving a dollar.

He would never have become an Olympian except for people giving.

♪♪ -There's a collective pride in the accomplishments of somebody from where you are, and it's again, it's not just strictly Hawaiians who are doing it.

It's a local community gathering together to help send him on his way so he can do what he can do.

♪♪ -On February 8th of 1912, Duke, along with two other swimmers, embarked for the mainland, leaving Hawaii for the first time in his life.

It was a two-week journey by boat and then train to Pittsburgh where he was scheduled to race.

-It's cold. He sees snow for the first time.

He travels across this immeasurably big continent.

-He never experienced snow. You know, all that is foreign.

-Traveling across the vast continent, something else would have offered Duke a chilly reception.

Racial segregation, the antithesis of aloha.

It had only been 50 years since the Civil War, and it would be another 50 years before the Civil Rights Act.

-The USA at that time was still very segregated.

There were laws keeping dark-skinned people separate from light-skinned people.

-There's a saying in Hawaiian.

'Mahape a ale wala'au.'

It means 'Don't talk. Keep it in your heart.'

For some, not being allowed in would breed resentment.

But for Duke, 'Mahape a ale wala'au' was a way of life.

As a man of color, whatever unease he felt, Duke likely kept it all in his heart.

♪♪ -The pressure was on him because the American chants were disdainful of him.

He was a native from Hawaii. Where the heck was Hawaii?

-He's dark-skinned, and Duke was not a physically small person.

-And his hands and his feet were so big, they dwarfed my hand.

It would just disappear whenever I shook his hand.

-And he had size 13-plus feet.

What he had on was paddles and fins.

It wasn't some chopsticks he was dipping into the water.

He was dipping some major blades.

-He was supposed to be the unofficial world champion, having broken the other person's record by 4 seconds.

-He's a fish out of water, almost literally.

You've got a two-week journey from Hawaii to a little pool in a club in Pittsburgh, which was filled with cigar smoke, fans yelling and pointing at you, in a sense, all of them looking at him saying, 'Prove it, prove it. What do you got?'

And by the way, for the first time in your life, you're going to swim indoors.

That's what Duke had to overcome to be the best.

♪♪ -Our blood is thin because of the warm water.

And I think when Duke jumped in, it was a shock to the body.

And not just to the body, but to the mind.

-The water was different for him.

He never swam in a pool before.

Pool water is not like saltwater.

-The mind is saying 'Do this' and you push yourself past what the body is used to and everything starts locking up.

♪♪ -As Duke's body betrayed him, being unable to finish the race must have been a physical and mental shock.

The world record holder, the waterman, the pride of Hawaii can't finish a race and had to be rescued.

-Everybody kind of snickered behind their hands because this was supposed to be the world record holder.

-The press, which has heard about this sort of Hawaiian hurricane, just turns the other way, the mainland press, and goes, 'This guy is just a fable.

He's not a real competitor. He can't handle the pressure.'

Maybe in retrospect, it was a good thing that he failed right away because he had to go, 'You know what? This is different.'

-In my opinion, the building blocks of a waterman is humility.

As a student of the ocean, that would have made him pretty resilient to failure.

Failure is not going to stop you.

You're just going to figure out a different route.

-Not all had seen Duke as a failure.

The head coach of the University of Pennsylvania swim team, George Kistler, saw something special in Duke.

He gave him a few pointers.

-Duke learned so fast that Kistler agreed to coach him for free.

-Duke being very gracious, being very humble, I think that was recognized as well.

Everybody went back to Hawaii.

Duke was left on the mainland to sink or swim.

And in a sense, it was left to George Kistler to help him.

-Kistler pinpointed three areas to improve -- diving into the pool, making the turns, and controlling his breath.

-Once he understands and is able to channel what he learned from Kistler, he becomes almost unstoppable.

♪♪ -As a waterman, that doesn't surprise me, because it speaks to his profuse willingness to learn.

He had to implement some sort of technique that he had to learn, and then he beat all the people that taught him how to do it.

♪♪ -At the time, there were very few opportunities for non-whites to compete at the highest level.

But in 1912, James Sullivan is the head of the Olympic Committee.

He had one goal.

To win.

He had Jim Thorpe on the team, another Native American, Louis Tewanima.

To his mind, if Duke was the best, then he should represent Hawaii and the United States.

I mean, for America, sports at the time, that was -- [ Chuckles ] That was integrated.

-All of a sudden, it's like he's a superstar.

And a lot of that is important to U.S. history, as well, because the United States never really had a strong presence in swimming and as part of the Olympic sports.

-He had come from nowhere to the Olympic team in the space of three months, which is probably an unrivaled story in Olympic history.

-You're talking about a high school dropout who's a beach boy.

That's about it. Now you're on a -- You're on a ship going to the Olympics, representing the United States.

I think he felt pretty good about himself.

He had come a long, long way, longer than anybody.

-I know the Duke not only as the fastest swimmer I ever met, but he also could go to sleep faster than anyone else.

[ Laughter ] -A friend of yours from the 1912 Olympic Games, Michael McDermott of Chicago, Illinois.

[ Cheers and applause ] Duke's ability to sleep at any time almost caused him to lose a crown, didn't it, Mr. McDermott?

-It sure did. We had taken part in the Olympic Parade.

After the Parade, we got to the stadium.

Well, the Duke wasn't there.

We were looking all over the place for the Duke.

We looked under the stand, and there was the Duke sound asleep.

And after waking him up, he just had time to get his suit on and get up to the tank when the gun started his event.

-The Olympics in 1912 are primarily European and American thing. You don't have a lot of Asians.

You don't have a lot of Africans.

So Duke is unique.

-He's a diplomat in two ways.

He's a diplomat from Hawaii, and he's a diplomat from America.

Can you handle the pressure of the moment?

And he was so relaxed that he would fall asleep.

-Most people, you know, they get in the pool and they warm up.

With Duke, he's sleeping underneath the bleachers.

-It's just what he does every single day.

I think our greatest athletic achievements are when we're calm and in a natural environment.

♪♪ ♪♪ -His stroke and his style was so smooth and effortless.

-He's known as a swimmer who has a very unique style.

And part of that style is this kick.

People said, 'Where did you learn to swim this way?'

And his answer was, 'It's just in my blood.'

-He changed the world with the Kahanamoku kick, the double-flutter kick, the same kick that, you know, Michael Phelps learned, the same kick my coach taught me.

-That's how the Hawaiians swim.

When you lose that board and you're all the way out past first break, you got to swim in.

There's no leash. These guys are flying in the water.

Well, he's smoking them.

[ Cheers and applause ] -Well, how did he come out?

-Well, he won his preliminary and shattered the world record.

-The eyes of the world's athletic elite were now on Duke.

But he was dealt a crushing blow.

The American officials were misinformed about the time of the 100-meter freestyle semifinals.

Duke, a no-show, would be disqualified from the event that everyone knew he would win.

But then something astounding happened.

-This Australian dude is like he really wants to race Duke because there's a lot of talk that Duke was this fast swimmer.

-Cecil Healy registered a complaint that the race should not be held because the Americans weren't there.

-He told the officials that he wouldn't race unless Duke was racing.

-To me, that's just, wow, that's my hero.

'I can win a gold medal here, but I'm not going to win it against the best.

I want the best to be in the water with me.'

♪♪ -Because of Cecil Healy, Duke was allowed to compete.

What Cecil did epitomized the Olympic spirit, even as it jeopardized his own chances for gold.

-It's a proud Australian moment for me that he put everything aside and went, 'You know what? I'm in a race against the best in the world.'

That to me is what sportsmanship is all about.

-Cecil would have won gold, but he only won silver because Duke beat him by 2 seconds and Duke got his first gold medal.

-Well, he went on to win the final and established a new Olympic and new world record.

And then the king of Sweden, King Gustaf, crowned him with the laurel wreath that's entitled to the victor of the Olympics.

-Five months after leaving home, this modest young man, unknown to the world, was now an official world champion and gold medalist.

Instant global fame followed, his name splashed across the front pages of newspapers, his smile beamed from magazines and newsreels all over the world.

This moment cemented him as the living embodiment of Hawaii.

When the world saw Duke, they saw Hawaii.

[ Gunfire, explosions ] -It was the first time an enemy had struck at English soil for nearly 900 years.

-In December of 1914, six months into the war to end all wars and the 1916 Olympics in question, Duke would set sail from Hawaii on an historic three-month journey to Australia and New Zealand, the trip that probably never would have happened if not for the well-known story of Duke and the sportsmanship of his rival, now friend Cecil Healy.

-If he chose not to speak up for Duke, he would have won gold.

Duke and Cecil formed a very tight bond, which led Duke to be invited to Australia to do a number of swimming events in 1914, '15.

-All this is against the backdrop of the whitest country in the world.

Australia treated indigenous people very poorly.

-There were quite a few Samoans and Tongans and South Sea Islanders, considered second-class citizens.

-Cecil was confident that Duke would win over Australia, writing, 'I make bold to predict that he will have ingratiated himself into the affections of a large number of Australians before departing on his homeward voyage.'

Arriving in Sydney, it was immediately clear that the Australians had more on their minds than watching him swim.

-When he arrives, before he gets off the boat, one of the journalists puts it to him.

'Do you have a surfboard with you?

In other words, 'Will we get you to --' He says, 'No, I don't have a surfboard.'

-There were already surfers here in Australia.

They weren't of the caliber of Duke.

You could only learn how to surf by reading a book or getting on a boat and going to Hawaii and watching how it's done.

-What was weird was that the surfboard ride, it was possibly swimming people's fault because they used the poster that had him on the surfboard to promote the swimming events.

-The Australians wanted to see Duke surf, but he didn't have a board.

Like any good waterman would say, 'That's okay, I'll make one.'

-There weren't really boards made here.

The guys who were riding surfboards, the board came from Hawaii, as well.

So Duke bought a lump of sugar pine and probably knocked it out just over there in the sand hills, who knows.

-Crowds gathered around Duke, excited to finally see how a Hawaiian surfboard was made.

Duke probably had no idea that he was creating the template for the board that Australians would ride for decades to come.

-When he would make a surfboard, and traditionally in Hawaiian ways, there were a lot of ritual that went along with it, finding the right tree, saying the right prayer, essentially bringing the board out of the tree.

And Duke was a master at doing that.

-It's not necessarily just a board.

It's a living entity on our planet and our island, our world.

That spirit within this object, nurture it into life, right, and bring out what wants to be, not what want it to be.

♪♪ -Anticipation building, crowds thronged the shore.

Everyone knew this was going to be a big day for Australia.

For Duke, this day would be one that he would cherish for the rest of his life.

-Surfing was kind of his off time.

It wasn't the very thing that he was invited out to the country to do.

-Crowds and crowds. There was a lot of people on the beach.

And you've got to remember, too, that he was considered to be dark or black.

And in those days, racism was a big part of society.

-After the initial introductions, paddled out through the break.

They thought he was in trouble.

[ Chuckles ] But obviously he wasn't.

♪♪ ♪♪ -He actually rode the green wave.

A lot of riding that was going on was wait for the wave to break, pick up the white water and ride that to the beach.

The fact that he was out the back and riding it before it broke pushed the whole performance level up miles.

-Duke rode the wave diagonally from the north end of the beach to the south end, which is something that would never have crossed the mind of Australians at that time.

-He was aware that he was a performer.

People wanted things that make headlines.

-Duke was a showman.

He didn't just get on his board and surf in.

He might stand on his head.

Duke was not the very first surfer, but certainly no one had ever really seen quality elite surfing done by the best surfer in the world.

-For him to come and show people how to ride the Hawaiian style certainly showed us a hell of a way to do it.

-I don't think anyone had actually seen it to the caliber that Duke was able to do it.

Australians actually got to see what this surfing was.

-It was wondrous. The waves in Australia, as he soon found out, were some of the best in the world.

And people mobbed him at the beach.

-Duke helped to break down those society barriers.

He was just one of the guys.

-So after that demonstration, one of the journalists writes that when Duke is in Hawaii, he is that good that he can ride tandem with a young guy on his shoulders.

Can Duke ride tandem in Australia?

He takes up the challenge, and Isabel is brought into the action.

-Isabel Letham.

She was a little bit of a tomboy, swimming and doing things that girls at the time weren't supposed to do.

-Hawaiian and a white girl.

Another barrier broken down.

-Of that era, in 1914, '15, there was still a lot of segregation.

Women at the time, down on Manly Beach, they weren't able to swim.

They couldn't go to the pub.

You didn't have a career. You didn't travel.

You got married and you had children.

And that was it.

-She didn't even know it was coming.

He got the wave, and then he picked her up by the scruff of the neck and stood her up in front of him.

She didn't know what to make of it.

She said it was like falling off a cliff.

That blew her away.

♪♪ -The myth is she becomes Australia's first female board rider.

-She's groundbreaking, particularly in the sport of surfing, to make it okay for women to be out and to surf.

You know, she loved that moment.

For her, it was a turning point that allowed her to see that there's probably a bigger world out there than what she was currently living in.

♪♪ She was an incredible influence on any female surfer and celebrated that moment her whole life.

The modern woman, decades ahead of her time, she traveled and had a career and sort of paved the way for other women to say, 'Maybe I could do that.'

I love that we had a non-white Hawaiian with Isabel, dismissed the expectations of society and went, 'No, we're going to do this. It's going to be fun.'

And that's what I think Duke was all about with his surfing, was just having fun.

-As the crowds mobbed Duke that day, it was clear that the purpose of that trip had shifted from seeing the Olympian swim to watching the Hawaiian surf.

-His tour made front-page news for the whole 2 1/2 months that he was here.

There was huge attendance at the swimming races, which is why he initially came.

Surfboard riding was the long-lasting legacy that really left a mark on Australian society.

The surfboard riding took over.

-Word of Duke's deeds in Australia had reached New Zealand and built such anticipation for his arrival that it seemed the whole country shut down.

-When he came to New Brighton, the schools closed, the shops closed, even the post office closed.

-Thousands of people turned up to see him give a surfing display.

-For the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, Duke represented hope because what they saw is the most famous man in the world, adored by all races and cultures, and he was just like them -- Polynesian.

-He's greeted by a traditional Maori marae.

There's a lot of pride in that exchange from one Polynesian to another.

-I think all indigenous cultures that have been colonized were suppressed.

They're seeing someone who looks just like them feted throughout the whole world as this incredible, heroic figure.

I think it just instilled a massive amount of pride.

♪♪ -I think the Maori people, it meant a lot to them to see a Hawaiian, you know, spreading their culture, and how he was proud to be Hawaiian and encouraged them to find things, to be proud of themselves and spread it.

[ Chanting in Maori ] -Since they saw Duke, the Maori people have shared with the world.

We have a lot of Maori athletes making the big teams and representing New Zealand, and become a really proud, inspiring people.

-Think there's just a massive resurgence of Indigenous pride now.

He should be celebrated.

He should be celebrated everywhere, this fellow who looks like one of my uncles -- [ Laughs ] -- started surfing here in Christchurch.

Because of that and because of the ripple effect that it caused, years later, I'm picking up the board and doing the same thing.

♪♪ -He gets invitations to make appearances all over the world -- in Europe, in America, on the mainland.

-Duke was putting on a surfing show, and hundreds and hundreds of people go and watch these exhibitions where he's surfing.

-I think the Duke shared surfing with the world because it was the greatest gift that he had received in his life, and he wanted other people to experience it.

-He's bringing a sport that nobody has seen before to their shores.

The transfer of that was, you know, literally kids were running home and getting their mom's ironing board and trying to surf on an ironing board.

-The Hawaiians developed the art of riding waves for pleasure and developed surfboards.

Surfing is Hawaii's gift to the world.

-Surfing began with people like Duke, who shared it, and they wanted people to be a part of it.

It's the spirit of Hawaii.

♪♪ -Duke was number one.

Better than the mayor, the governor, and everybody.

I mean, because he was our hero.

Here beneath the shade of the lofty coconut palms, native beach boys still sing and play the enchanting melodies of old Hawaii.

-And it's not only him but all of his -- his brothers and his friends and his cousins and his community down there.

-Duke and his brothers, those are real beach boys.

You know, those were beautiful years, those years.

-This is our number-one beach boy song, everybody.

♪ Tall, dark, and thin ♪ ♪ Tonight hemo skin ♪ -♪ E lei, ka lei lei ♪ -The beach boys of Waikiki were very colorful.

Some of them wore costumes at times and did jokes to make people laugh and have a good time.

-♪ Cha cha ♪ -♪ Cha cha cha ♪ -Their laughter and shouts, give us our first picture of the Hawaiian -- happy, carefree, all alive.

-When you look back and you read other people, they'll say, like, how the women used to call the beach boys bronze gods and all this kind of stuff.

-When I see pictures of beach boys in the bay of Duke, their pecs, their arms, I go, 'God, where did they lift weights at?'

-♪ Bottoms up ♪ ♪ To the land ♪ ♪ Where the lazy days roll along ♪ -So you had a very elite, wealthy group of tourists who were coming to Hawaii in the early days.

They say that many wealthy divorced women would come to Hawaii to kind of escape, and they would find a lot of fun hanging out with Duke and his friends surfing.

-♪ Now it's time to drink ♪ -Of course, one of the favorite pastimes was taking a young lady tandem surfing.


-♪ Okole maluna ♪ [ Applause ] -Okole maluna! Bottoms up!

-The beach boys make very good money in those times.

They also become local celebrities.

And Duke is seen as kind of like the chief out there, an alaka'i, or protector.

He didn't tolerate racism, prejudice, and these other things.

In their domain, in the ocean and the waves, they were the chiefs, and everyone knew it.

-Believe me, when Duke said something, everyone listened.

Doesn't matter what race it is, as long as you're having fun.

-Duke was always surrounded by people of different ethnicities, different colors.

We embraced everybody that came to Hawaii.

-It's really intriguing to me that Duke represents this counter-narrative to what tourism was trying to sell Hawaii.

Duke, however, becomes this mascot for Hawaii as, again, a kind of a warrior figure.

-We could have been an agricultural state, in my opinion.

But when the beach boys showed everybody how much fun it is over here, I hold them solely responsible for the tourist industry that Hawaii enjoys today.

-What was good for Hawaii put Duke in a difficult financial position.

His status as a record-breaking world-class athlete garnered him attention he couldn't get any other way.

If Duke had made a couple of bucks playing baseball, like Jim Thorpe, he could've been classified as a professional, disqualified from the Olympics for good.

Hawaii's power brokers insisted Duke remain an amateur.

♪♪ Duke found himself forced to rely on others for his livelihood.

-That held him back.

That circumscribed his life to a degree, because the thing that he's really good at doing, he can't go out and earn money for.

-They put a lot of stock in him winning.

Duke was rewarded with a house.

I think he found himself trapped.

He had no money.

So if he wins, Hawaii wins, right?

You talk about pressure.

-In 1916, Duke was a world-class swimmer at the height of his physical prime.

After four years, he was hungry to defend his gold at the Berlin Olympics.

But fate had other plans.

♪♪ The war that so many thought would have been long over had reached its peak.

The Games were canceled.

Over the ensuing years, Duke kept at it as an amateur, setting world records at the 1917 AAU Nationals in Honolulu.

♪♪ But by 1920, the war was over.

Belgium hosted the return of the Olympics.

But the devastation of war took a heavy toll.

♪♪ 143 Olympians died in the war and many just weren't physically able to compete.

-Many of the Australians weren't able to compete.

Germany was banned.

So two major competitors are off the board, and the rest of Europe is decimated from young men.

-One loss in particular deeply affected Duke.

♪♪ -Cecil was the only gold-medalist swimmer who died in World War I.

-He's one of our most understated heroes that formed a real bond between the Australians and the Hawaiians.

-He had a very short life, and he is sorely missed to this day.

♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -Another teammate of yours, Duke, and a friend since 1912, here is Ludy Langer. -Ludy Langer.

[ Cheers and applause ] -What made 1920 so memorable for Duke?

-Well, that's the year Duke broke his own world and Olympic records, and you did it on your 30th birthday, Duke.

-Duke is now sort of the elder statesman of the U.S. swim team and the leader of this Hawaiian contingent that basically takes over the team in 1920.

♪♪ -You did it so easy with that svelte form of yours, You just beat these other fellas with an awful burst and usually a world record.

-I had him scared once. -Just once?

-Thank you, Ludy Langer.

-Against a diluted field, the American success is unprecedented.

-Following his latest Olympic triumph, Duke reached a crossroads.

His future uncertain, he charted a new course.

♪♪ For years, friends had tried enticing Duke out of Hawaii.

He was the most famous swimmer in the world, rubbing shoulders with some of the most important people on the planet.

With an eye to capitalize on his Olympic success and prepare for life after amateur sports, Duke set his sights on Hollywood.

♪♪ -The film industry, the movie industry is booming and so is Los Angeles.

He decided to make a go of it and see what would happen with the film career.

♪♪ -He's part of a social set that is important.

He's not just laboring away in obscurity.

He's hanging out with movie directors and movie stars.

He's teaching people how to swim, and he's also surfing.

-I don't think he was trying to impress anybody, and that was what was so impressive to the Hollywood celebrities.

He was just being Duke, and he had a presence that, to them, was their job.

For him, it was natural. He was a star.

[ Applause ] -Now it's 1924.

Duke -- Paris, France, the age of 34.

The world is watching anxiously to see if Duke Kahanamoku will retain his title.

-This was my first Olympic meet, and I was many years younger than Duke. -Yeah, pulo'u.

-Yeah, Duke, the only man -- [ Laughs ] -- who could -- What did that mean? Or maybe you shouldn't tell me.

-Covered up. -Oh.

The only man who could have defeated you, your former opponent and now close friend, the man who himself broke established world records, Johnny Weissmuller!

♪♪ -Johnny Weissmuller arrived on the scene a monster talent.

Long, lanky, and ripped, with teen idol looks.

-Johnny Weissmuller was the best American swimmer of the first half of the 20th century.

A supreme talent in the pool.

He was built more like a Michael Phelps.

You're in the heart of sort of that golden age of the 1920s, and you've got Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey and Bill Tilden and these heroic figures in sports that the sportswriters are making into heroes.

-The press played up the rivalry between Johnny and Duke.

The showdown was set.

Paris Olympics, 1924.

-He had a whole family working against you here.

-Incidentally, yeah.

The Kahanamoku brothers were pretty well represented.

Beside Duke, there was David and Sam.

-Hawaii was all over the place!

♪♪ -How did the 100 meter turn out?

-Johnny came first, and I took second place, and my brother Sam took third place.

-Duke actually helped you to beat him, didn't he, Johnny?

-Yes, he did. You know, we trained together in the Olympic Games. -Yes.

-And this big lug, he just gave me all the confidence in the world.

-He had a feeling that you were going to beat him, and he helped you? -Well, sure.

He made me go back and get in that pool and work up and down.

He was just like a big brother to the boys.

-I gave him a workout. -Yeah.

But, you know, funny thing -- he never -- he never worried too much about himself.

All he wanted to do was be sure that the United States got that one, two, three in the Olympic Games.

-We did. -We did it.

-They really respected the competition and the people that they competed against.

Then they became good friends.

There was no big deal about competing with one another.

-They loved each other. They could play together.

They were naughty together.

-Thank you, Johnny Weissmuller.

-Duke wasn't bitter about Johnny's upstaging him and humbly acknowledged Johnny's place as the greatest swimmer in the world.

-It was really like brothers.

And I think Duke was really proud of him, whereas other people would be maybe jealous.

♪♪ [ Film projector running ] -Hey, wait a minute till I cut your coupon.

-I no ask for that. Do for missy a favor.

-Thank you, Corporal.

-Duke returned to Hollywood to chase his film career with the same humble resolve that made him a world champion.

But he could only land bit parts and extra work.

To protect his amateur status, he couldn't use his greatest asset -- swimming.

He was hamstrung.

Duke spent nearly a decade seeking a lead role, only to witness the meteoric success of a close friend.

The man who surpassed Duke in the pool now outshone him on the screen.

[ Tarzan yell ] ♪♪ -The ultimate irony is that the swimmer who does exceed beyond expectations what his entertainment value is was his biggest rival in the pool, Johnny Weissmuller, who gets the role of Tarzan because, well, he's an Olympic champion like Duke, but he's also white.

-...galaxy of stars, the camera spots Johnny Weissmuller -- Tarzan to you... -Hollywood, at the time, is completely white.

He is stereotyped because he's a person of color, and he's only allowed to be an extra.

♪♪ -Johnny, who ended up breaking his record, they became best friends. He becomes Tarzan.

So it's kind of -- it's an injustice, I'm sure, that he felt, 'cause like, 'I've been doing this for a while, but I'm never going to be able to do what Johnny just did.'

He was one of the biggest celebrities in the world, but they weren't willing to make him a leading man, even though he was a leading man to everyone in the nation.

On screen, that story wasn't ready to be told.

♪♪ [ Water splashing, waves roaring ] -While in California, Duke sought renewal in the waters of the Pacific.

Though he relied on it for healing, he wasn't blind to its power to destroy.

-One day, June 14, 1925, you're surfing at Newport Beach, California, when a fishing boat capsizes offshore under the battering of 25-foot waves.

[ Waves crashing, wood cracking ] ♪♪ -I was with Duke when we saw the boat capsize.

-There were 17 persons aboard the boat.

♪♪ -Waves were so high that it was practically impossible to get through the surf and reach the people who were in the water.

♪♪ -It was a horrifically big surf day, and him and his friends really didn't venture out into the water right away.

The waves were enormous.

And Duke knew in his heart that something ill was going to happen, and the boat turned upside down.

Everyone fell overboard, fully clothed in jackets and pants and heavy gear.

♪♪ -A good waterman is going to make sure that everybody else out there is safe and protected.

-This comes to 'kuleana,' a really important word, translated to 'responsibility.'

Duke saw people suffering and struggling and said, 'I can do something.'

He just assumed responsibility and jumped right in the water.

-Took his surfboard, which was never taught, never used for lifesaving.

-Being who Duke was and a surfer and for him, the ocean is a home.

It's a natural element.

You know, the storm, the surf, knowing where to be, where to exist, and where not to be.

In the ocean, it's all about choices, not chances.

And he can see the point of impact -- 'Don't be there.

Wait till the wave hits and diffuses all its energy, and then paddle over or paddle in.

Grab one person to come back in.'

-Finally did manage to get through the breakers and race out to those survivors on a surfboard.

-Three times, Duke came back from the wreck to the shore, and each time, he brought survivors.

-A superhuman feat.

I've made surfboard rescues for 25 years, and if I had to do what he did that day, I would never have been able to physically do it.

[ Waves crashing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -Of the 17 people aboard the five lost their lives, and you alone, Duke Kahanamoku, were responsible for saving the lives of eight of the remaining survivors.

-That was a really good day.

-Thank you, Tom and Joe Henry, for retelling this stunning story of Duke's bravery.

[ Cheers and applause ] [ Waves rumbling ] -Not only did he fight to save them, back-and-forth trips, pushing his body beyond the limit, when all the survivors were brought in, he went back for the ones that didn't make it.

♪♪ -I mean, there's got to be a point when he paddled down and the boat's sunk, and they're dying in front of him, you know?

And so that trauma -- like, all trauma sticks with you forever.

-Knowing that Duke values every life like family, I think that's the thing that all Hawaiians or all Polynesians carry in their heart, that, you know, everyone, regardless of what color they are, it's a life.

It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, someone that, you know, loves that person, you know, and you would wish if that was your mother or father, that someone would take their kuleana, or responsibility, and go out there and rescue him, help him.

♪♪ -He hid when the news came down to get the story.

There are so many different stories about that rescue because it was told by his friends.

Duke hid because he couldn't save everyone.

-You don't forget those heavy rescues.

It haunts you when you see someone that you somehow figure, you know, 'What if?'

or could I have got them?'

-In Hollywood, they weren't willing to make him a leading man.

But it didn't stop him from doing the things that he did.

Not only did he save lives, he brought these people back because of the goodness of who he is.

That's -- That's -- That's a leading man, if you ask me.

That's -- That's -- That is a man just filled with nothing but aloha for everyone and everything around him.

♪♪ [ Waves crashing ] -Did you like Hollywood?

-Oh, I loved it. I enjoyed the moving picture.

-About how many pictures were you in?

-Must have been about a half a dozen or more.

And then I came back in '28.

-How do you find Hawaii today?

-Well, Bob, tell you the truth, I don't like it so much.

-You don't like it. -All these concrete buildings, they seem out of my way.

-Well, if you had your choice, would you have rather lived your youth back in the old days or have lived your youth today?

-I would prefer way back. -Live the old days.

All right. -Right.

♪♪ -The end of the 1920s brought more adversity.

Duke retreated to Hawaii, where, without any recent success, he was widely seen as a failure.

Forced to work menial jobs to get by, he became the butt of jokes.

But with his eyes on the next Games, he pressed on.

In 1932, body aging at 42, he bested his record 100 meter freestyle time from 1912 but was still only able to make the roster as an alternate on the water polo team.

[ Applause ] -A member of the United States water polo team, the only United States swimmer to have participated in four Olympic Games.

-He retired after the Games as a four time Olympian, with three gold and two silver medals.

As Duke prepared for life after the Olympics, reality set in.

The champion was now in his 40s, an unemployed high school dropout with no backup plan.

-You may have heard of Duke when he starred as a swimmer... -Some people, they would say, 'Oh, that's okay.

You know, he's just a beach boy.'

But it's hard to make money as a beach boy.

-He's one of those people who everybody knows who he is, but he's not earning any money.

So people just sort of think, 'Well, he's famous.

He must have money,' and he didn't.

-When they squeezed him for everything he had in that period of time as a youthful super athlete, they just gave him a gas station and set him on his way.

-And to a certain extent, Duke was taken for granted.

You know, 'Oh, that's Duke.'

You know, no one ever really stepped forward to really give him the prestige and place in our society that he he had earned.

-Your lovely wife, Nadine Kahanamoku.

-In 1940, Duke married Nadine Alexander, a professional dancer of Australian descent who was unprepared for the public's disapproval of their relationship.

Duke responded to the negativity the way he always had -- Mahape a ale wala'au.

'Don't talk. Keep it in your heart.'

-You talk about Duke's, you know, temperament and that he was this very gracious and humble person.

The one downside to that was something that his wife, Nadine, brought up, which was Duke internalized everything.

He kept everything bottled up inside.

He'd say, 'I'm not going to respond to jokes, or if somebody is taunting me, I'll make them feel better.'

Unfortunately, that maybe affected his health later on in his life, that he bottled up his emotions and, in a sense, had to not maybe share exactly what he was feeling.

-But because of who he was, Duke had left an unforgettable impression around the world.

And soon, the waves of aloha came full circle as friends surfaced, coming to his aid, starting in what seemed an unlikely place.

-The Outrigger did step up, and to their credit, there were times when they were Duke's biggest supporters.

-Duke Kahanamoku was one of the greatest leaders of the club as a member, somebody that we all look up to.

-Duke became icon at the Outrigger Canoe Club.

We have a room in the back of the Outrigger called the Duke Room, and it's all dedicated to Duke and his memory.

-It's a complicated relationship.

People would resent that that was the only way Duke could be supported.

-What ended up happening, Hawaii came to his rescue and elected this man sheriff of Honolulu.

He served as sheriff for years because the people kept electing him.

-But then, the unthinkable.

[ Explosions ] ♪♪ -Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy.

♪♪ -Duke brought Hawaii on the map, and then everything changed as soon as Pearl Harbor came and the war.

-Hawaii was under martial law for 3 1/2 years, which is unprecedented in the history of the U.S.A.

♪♪ -Barbed wire lined the beaches.

Internment camps dotted the islands.

The world was at war.

And for three years, the Hawaii Duke knew shut down.

-The beach boys, back before World War II, there was a lot of aloha, there was a lot of love.

After Pearl Harbor, the atmosphere at Waikiki was probably a little bit more strained, as far as feeling good about helping people out.

-Three years cut off from the rest of the world.

No surf, no beach boys.

The Hawaii Duke had worked his entire life to preserve and share with the world was not the same.

But the war ended, and Duke, celebrity among celebrities, drew the elite from every part of the world to his home.

-A lot of movie stars and celebrities were coming to the Hawaiian Islands and they were getting publicized.

-So many people came to Hawaii just because of him.

Right? That's -- That's saying a lot.

-Kings, queens, royalty.

-Duke, giving the queen mother of England a hula lesson.

-That's right. -How did she do?

-Very -- She was -- Akamai, we call it.

-Akamai, is it?

-He was the celebrity among celebrities.

-The actors and the actresses, and everybody's always kind of magnetized towards Duke.

-The Hawaii Tourist Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce are saying, 'This is great publicity.'

Duke became the greeter of celebrities coming to the Hawaiian Islands.

-In 1960, Hawaii formalized what Duke has been doing since 1912.

Swearing him in as the official ambassador of aloha.

And as he worked to breathe life back into the Hawaii surfing scene, around the world, it caught fire.

[ The Beach Boys' 'Surfin' USA' plays ] -♪ Surfin U.S.A. ♪ ♪♪ -Post-war surfing starts booming.

Not just surfing the sport but surfing culture.

It's about music, it's about fashion, it's about an attitude, and Duke is the original.

-Me, Gidget.

-It was a whole subculture.

Aloha is what Duke had, what Duke Kahanamoku represented.

Duke worked hard to spread the joy of riding and the surf culture, which is like, 'I'm stoked to be part of that.'

♪♪ -As surfing grew in popularity, so did opportunities for Duke to finally reach a bit of economic security.

Entrepreneur and talent manager Kimo McVay partnered with Duke to capitalize on his new worldwide popularity.

♪♪ -♪ Duke Kahanamoku ♪ ♪♪ -When he got together with Kimo McVay, they licensed clothing, they licensed Duke Kahanamoku skateboards, they licensed Duke Kahanamoku surfboards.

There was a restaurant and nightclub named Duke Kahanamoku's.

-And he formed a surf team, put Joey Cabell, Paul Strauch, Butch Van Artsdalen, and myself on the team.

-You've sort of picked these boys out to be protégés, haven't you?

-Yes, Bob, and I wanted these boys to set the example of how to be gentlemen.

-'Duke Kahanamoku's World of Surfing.'

-Hi, surfers. Aloha.

-Duke's invitation was broadcast nationally on ABC's 'Wide World of Sports,' and he created the competition, hoping it would help fulfill his dream of someday seeing surfing in the Olympics.

-It was to honor the Duke.

ABC 'Wide World of Sports' and The Duke Contest had a lot to do with the awareness of people in the middle of Kansas or on the East Coast or in other parts of the world.

Here's Eddie Aikau, another young Hawaiian surfer.

Also, the first time for Eddie.

This is Duke Kahanamoku, big swimming champion and father of modern surfing.

-Once again, Duke was relevant, but to a new generation.

Though in his '70s, the godfather of surfing was in demand all over the world, Traveling the globe, this Johnny Appleseed of the surf was witness to the fruit of his goodwill from visits decades before.

♪♪ -Duke Kahanamoku, from Hawaii, who introduced surfboarding to Australia... -First thing he did was came back to Freshwater, met up again with Isabel Letham, met up again with Claude West, and met up with his surfboard.

-We talk about Duke being that Johnny Appleseed figure.

In a sense, that board that he leaves in Australia becomes just an important symbol for some of the most important surfers in Australia. a beach near Sydney, Australia... -For the next 30 or 40 years, whenever they had a competition, people would refer to them as a Duke board competition.

-Duke definitely is kind of like the root of the whole thing.

As a surfer, if you live in Australia, California, somewhere around the world, it all comes back, and at some point, it gets to Duke.

-Was it more of a thrill for you to win those Olympic Games or ride some of those giant waves?

-Both were quite a thrill.

But I think this surfing is, to me, the greatest thrill of my life.

♪♪ -When you do something that's so magic and so amazing and has such a profound effect on your soul, you want to share that with people.

-And then, February 20, 1959.

Duke was asked to fly to Los Angeles to help with a travelogue about Hawaii.

But it was a trick.

-This is your life.

-There, on a Hollywood soundstage in front of the nation, the story of one of America's greatest icons would be told, and Duke Kahanamoku was finally a star.

[ Cheers and applause ] -We're here in Hollywood to help congratulate... ♪♪ -George 'Dad' Center, world-famous swimming coach.

-Well, there's another skill that Duke is pretty good at, too, and you shouldn't overlook it.

♪♪ -Johnny Weissmuller!

♪♪ ♪♪ -Duke was the grateful, stoic man of Hawaii that everybody expected to see, until Hollywood brought a surprise that Duke and all that knew him would never forget.

-But let's go back to June 14, 1925, the day the capsized.

You alone were responsible for saving the lives of 8 of the 17 people aboard the and whom you haven't seen since.

Here are three of the men you actually saved that fateful day, from Riverside, California.

Here is Fred Hock, everybody, and Harry Ohlin, and Edward Sneed, from Colton, California. -Oh!

♪♪ -Duke, I haven't seen you since you put me on the beach.

♪♪ And I have waited 32 years to thank you tonight.

-That's a long time.

♪♪ -The highly publicized rescue was not the only time Duke rescued others.

His life in and around the water and his reluctance to take credit make it impossible to know how many Duke saved.

He would never tell.

But those he saved never forgot.

-Yeah. -Been a long time since I've seen him.

And I want to thank you again for rescuing me and saving my life.

-That's wonderful.

-I think that's when lifeguarding branched out from coast guards to actually have lifeguards.

-When Duke battled out and rescued those eight people with his board, California adopted the rescue board immediately, and it began being used on every beach where lifeguards were posted in California.

♪♪ -If a shining example of a true sportsman lives anywhere in the world, it lives in your heart.

This is your life, Duke Kahanamoku, world champion athlete, a living legend whose love of people represents the true spirit of your beloved island.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Waves crashing ] -Good morning.

This is Arthur Godfrey.

Today, Hawaii lost her most famous citizen, the world, one of its greatest athletes, America, one of her greatest citizens of all time.

[ Woman singing in Hawaiian ] ♪♪ -When we heard the news, it was, 'No, it can't be happening. No, not Uncle Paoa.

He's -- He's the -- He's the pillar and the strength of our family.

Can't be. He's not ready to go yet.'

-On January 22, 1968, Duke Kahanamoku suffered a heart attack and passed away while preparing to go boating with friends.

He was 77.

In the coming week, Waikiki would be host to a funeral unlike any before or since.

-It was hard to grasp the idea that he was actually going to be gone and we weren't going to see him anymore or be able to be with him.


-♪ Aloha oe ♪ -Nationally renowned Hall of Fame radio host Arthur Godfrey, who had become close friends with Duke, flew to Waikiki so that he could broadcast Duke's funeral to the nation.

-I have never seen so many people on Waikiki.

There must have been at least 8,000 or 10,000 thronging the beach.

And strangely, you can almost hear a pin drop.

-♪ I ka lipo ♪ -I remember looking over at the hotels and just seeing throngs of people.

And it was just amazing to see that many people all celebrating or acknowledging him in that way.

And so I'd never seen anything like that.

-♪ Until we meet again ♪ ♪♪ -It was the end of an era that had seen the fall of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the rise of its people, guided by the gentle hand of a man who exemplified the attributes of Hawaii.

Arthur Godfrey, while speaking at Duke's funeral, pleaded with Hawaii to honor Duke.

-How sometimes cruelly do we forget our pioneering heroes.

Forevermore, his great spirit will be riding each wave all the way into the moana, standing there, bronzed and beautiful, with his arms outstretched.

Let us build that monument to the everlasting memory of the great ali'i who gave stature and glory to Hawaii Nei.

-Then, in 1990, a statue was finally unveiled.

Standing on the beach of Waikiki, it's a statue that today is almost as synonymous with Hawaii as Duke himself.

And this wouldn't be the only monument.

Four years later, Australia would place a statue of Duke overlooking the historic Freshwater Beach where Duke stunned the nation.

Another statue stands in the Surfers Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach, California.

And in New Zealand, a monument to Duke stands where he first surfed on the South Island.

And finally, in 2016, the International Olympic Committee announced that the sport would now fulfill his biggest dream, as surfing was officially added to the Summer Olympic Games.

-To hear that Duke wanted surfing in the Olympics, I think Duke should be our mantra.

Let's show what it is.

Let's make him proud in a way that people go, 'Wow. Surfing is cooler than every other sport in the world,' you know? 'Cause it is.

♪♪ -From a young age, before the world knew him, Duke's stature, presence, and athleticism earned him comparisons to King Kamehameha.

Some even attached a prophecy to Duke that the King allegedly spoke on his deathbed.

Although there are disagreements of whether the King actually said it, it's not surprising that many Hawaiians think of Duke when they hear these words.

-No American athlete has influenced two sports as profoundly as Duke Kahanamoku.

-They're honoring him in other countries.

-Freshwater Beach started having Duke's Day events each year and gotten bigger and bigger.

-Really something very special.

-And the spirit of The Duke is alive in New Brighton.

Our Duke Festival is the biggest surf contest in New Zealand.

Duke got us a way of life, and we didn't even realize it.

-Would be good if everyone could live his lifestyle.

-Not just the ultimate waterman but who he was as a person.

-There are true heroes in the world, and he was one of them.

-Give scholarships and grants out to kids who are perpetuating Duke's legacy.

-He's done so much for our sport.

He's definitely far from being forgotten.

-Duke is -- he's there.

♪♪ -To us, he's the king of surfing.

I think more than anyone will ever be in history, Duke represents what surfing is.

-And we can go into wakeboarding, snowboarding, skateboarding.

-You can't talk about extreme sports without knowing that the lineage comes from surfing.

[ Waves crashing ] -Duke accomplished the seemingly impossible.

A beach boy, while facing the worst the world could throw at him, quietly changed the world.

If you were to ask Duke how he pulled that off, he would say that he did it with the power of one word.


♪♪ ♪♪ -Just to explain what this is, that we're in the Outrigger Club.

Duke, just for fun, singing this song.

I don't know who wrote it, Duke. Who wrote it?

-Sol Ho'opi'i.

-It's called 'Duke Kahanamoku.'

♪♪ ♪ Duke Kahanamoku ♪ ♪ The Pride of all Hawaii ♪ ♪ Surfing on a nalu ♪ ♪ Appearing like a manu ♪ ♪ You would think a moment ♪ ♪ He wore a feather garment ♪ ♪ Oi'a no'e ka'oi ♪ ♪ King Kamehameha ♪ ♪ Conquered the island group ♪ ♪ Duke Kahanamoku ♪ ♪ He simply conquered all the waters ♪ ♪ Then became the king of swimmers ♪ ♪ Duke Kahanamoku ♪ ♪ The pride of all Hawaii ♪ ♪ Surfing on a nalu ♪ ♪ Appearing like a manu ♪ ♪ You would think a moment ♪ ♪ He wore a feather garment ♪ ♪ Oi'a no'e ka'oi ♪ ♪ Oi'a no'e ka'oi ♪ -Wonderful. -Very good.

That's a good tune.

-♪ 'Oiwi e ♪ -♪ 'Oiwi e ♪ ♪ E kahea ana e na 'iwi e ♪ -♪ Ua 'ike mai nei ♪ -♪ Ua 'ike mai nei i ku'u one hanau e ♪ -♪ Eia mai la ♪ -♪ Eia mai, Na kupa'aina o Hawai'i nei ♪ -♪ Kako'o mai nei ♪ -♪ Kako'o mai nei, Kupa'a lokahi e ♪ -♪ 'E kikilo e na iwi!' ♪ -♪ Kikilo e na iwi, e na mamo e ♪ ♪ Na kini makamaka e ♪ -♪ 'E kupa'a ke kanaka' ♪ -♪ Kupa'a ke kanaka hanohano ha'aheo e ♪ -♪ Ku ke kanaka ♪ -♪ Kupa'a ke kanaka hanohano ha'aheo e ♪ -♪ Kahi lua kolu ha! ♪ Kia Ora Hi!



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