6 things you may not know about Duke Kahanamoku

Duke Kahanamoku in 1920.

Most people are familiar with Duke Kahanamoku’s many influential achievements as a swimmer, surfer, Olympian, actor, sheriff and Ambassador of Aloha. But, in addition to those well-documented feats, here are some relatively-unknown facts about The Duke.

Photo: Hawaii State Archives

1) Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was born August 24, 1890 at Charles Reed Bishop and Princess Pauahi Bishop’s home, called Haleakala, in Honolulu. Soon after, his family moved to Kalia in Waikiki, near the present-day Hilton Hawaiian Village. The home of his birth is no longer there, but its location was near the corner of King and Bishop Streets.

2) Duke learned to surf when he was 8 years old from other keiki.

3) Duke’s favorite food was poi, and he liked it sour. If you knew The Duke was coming, you’d look high and low to find 3-day-old poi.


Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial
Photo: Hawaii State Archives

4) Duke’s worst wipeout was on a 25 foot wave outside of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial, where, he said in a 1965 Surfer magazine interview, they were coming one right after the other.

5) He could dance the foxtrot, rhumba, tango and shag well, and he was known to spontaneously get up and dance hula.

6) In the 1960s, Duke helped open a nightclub named after him. It was inside the International Market Place in Waikiki and was also where Don Ho once headlined. It attracted Hollywood celebrities regularly.


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