Special to the Star-Advertiser
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 25, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 1:46 a.m. HST, Aug 25, 2010
Yesterday was the 120th birthday of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, and he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Waterman Hall of Fame. Kahanamoku died on Jan. 22, 1968. His enduring legacy is still felt through the Waterman Hall of Fame, Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation and Duke's OceanFest, which is running throughout the week at Kuhio Beach Park in Waikiki.
Kahanamoku, Rell Sunn, Eddie Aikau, Buffalo Keaulana, Nappy Napoleon, Wally Froseith, Rabbit Kekai, Keo Nakama and Fred Hemmings were inducted into the Waterman Hall of Fame last night.
In the waning years of Kahanamoku's life, Sen. Hemmings worked as his assistant as part of the original Duke's Surf Team. Kimo McVey, who started Duke's restaurant and the original Duke's Surf Team, made Hemmings Kahanamoku's personal assistant.
"I spent the last three years of Duke's life traveling with him and spending a lot of time with him," said Hemmings, who was one of the original members of the Duke's Surf Team. "I found out now, years later, how much I learned because Duke was never one to be pedantic or be overt with sharing his wisdom, but he would tell stories, let me know parts of his past that now I find were very influential on me and very enlightening."
Kahanamoku has a long list of athletic accomplishments as an Olympic swimmer and surfer, but Hemmings is most impressed by Duke's endearing character and integrity. One of Hemmings' favorite stories about Kahanamoku is when the Duke was winning a swim race and intentionally slowed down to not humiliate the competition.
"Duke was like most successful athletes, very gifted physically," explained Hemmings. "Motivation. Character. Honor. Most good athletes are good people. They're very honorable competitors. Duke was probably first and foremost that: a very honorable competitor."
THE DUKE KAHANAMOKU FILE» Born August 24, 1890, in Honolulu
» Widely recognized as the inventor of the butterfly kick
» Represented the United States in the Olympics for 20 years
» Won his first Olympic gold medal and set a world record in the 100-meter freestyle at Stockholm, Sweden, in 1912
» Also won a silver as a participant in the 200-meter relay in Stockholm
» Won his second and third gold medals in 1920 during the Antwerp Olympics, again breaking his world record in the 100-meter freestyle and setting a world record on the freestyle relay team
» At the 1924 Paris Olympics, won a silver medal for the 100-meter freestyle
» At the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, was awarded a bronze medal as an alternate on the water polo team
» First inductee in swimming and surfing halls of fame