Duke Kahanamoku (or Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku) is the subject of a new Google doodle honoring his legacy as the man who is largely responsible for spreading the sport of surfing. Kahanamoku, who won five Olympic medals for swimming, and was also known as “The Duke” and “The Big Kahuna,” was born one hundred and twenty-five years ago today.
While water-sports were his main claim to fame, Kahanamoku had quite a collection of professions.
As Google explains, “The story of Duke Kahanamoku–the Hawaiian who, in 1912, first drew the world’s collective gaze upon the art of surfing–reads like mythology. Born in Honolulu in 1890, he is credited in over a dozen feature films, surfed the world’s most imposing swells before Californians knew what surfing was, won five Olympic medals in swimming and was elected sheriff of his beloved home county thirteen times.”
“The Big Kahuna was a tremendous athlete, to be sure, and by all accounts staggeringly cool, but he also had a proclivity for heroics–one morning in 1925, just as dawn crept into the summer sky over Newport Beach, a 40-foot fishing vessel called the Thelma found herself in the grip of a sudden and violent squall,” the company adds. “Waves hammered the Thelma’s deck, and the vessel succumbed to the thrashing breakers, stranding its crew in the surf. The Duke, who watched from the shore as he prepared for that morning’s ride, rushed headlong into the maelstrom with his surfboard and, along with three friends, managed to wrest twelve men from the clutches of the Pacific.”
In other words, the man was a true hero, but as if that weren’t enough, as Google notes he also played a role in helping the Hawaiian Islands achieve statehood in 1959 about nine years before his death.
Here’s some rare footage of what is said to be Kahanamoku at Waikiki Beach in 1939:
Google is showing the doodle throughout North and much of South America as well as in much of Europe, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Japan. August 24 also happens to be Ukraine Independence Day, and in that country, Google is honoring that with its own doodle.
Images via Google, Wikimedia Commons