In a "long overdue" commendation, nine Hawaii ocean athletes who helped make Hawaii the center of the water-sports universe were named to the newly formed Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame yesterday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
The nine honored for their contributions in surfing, canoe paddling, swimming and ocean safety are Duke Kahanamoku, Eddie Aikau, Rell Sunn, Wally Froiseth, Rabbit Kekai, Keo Nakama, Fred Hemmings, Nappy Napoleon and Buffalo Keaulana.
They will be inducted Aug. 24 at the Outrigger Canoe Club.
"The creation of a waterman hall of fame is long overdue," said Ralph Goto, board member of the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, which partnered with Primo Beer to establish the Hall of Fame.
Goto, an administrator of the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services for the City and County of Honolulu for 30 years, said Hawaii produces some of the world’s best ocean athletes and this is a fitting way to honor that tradition.
"We’re excited about paying tribute to the deserving watermen and waterwomen of Hawaii with this inaugural class of nine honorees, all of whom have been at the forefront in helping to establish the Hawaiian Islands as the center of the water-sports universe," he said.
» Eddie Aikau, big-wave surfing,
According to Goto the members of this class were chosen based on three criteria:
» Keiki ‘o ka ‘aina (Child of the land/Hawaii)/ Keiki ‘o ke kai (Child of the ocean);
» Sustained outstanding contribution to the sport;
» International, national and local accomplishment and recognition.
Legendary Makaha lifeguard and pioneering surfer Richard "Buffalo" Keaulana said he is honored to be sharing this experience with Duke Kahanamoku.
"I enjoy the ocean and I’m glad to be here with the Duke (Kahanamoku)," said Keaulana "I love the ocean because you have a choice of what you want to do. … I spend my time in the water because it’s refreshing. It clears your mind and keeps you away from whatever you think is not too cool. Most of all you’re out there with your friends."
Keaulana called all his fellow inductees friends and mentors, especially Nappy Napoleon and Fred Hemmings, who, along with Keaulana, were brought in on a double-hulled canoe for yesterday’s press conference at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Gov. Lingle recently signed Hemmings’ Surfing Reserve Bill into law, which established the Duke Kahanamoku Surfing Reserve and North Shore Surfing Reserve.
The legislation protects the world-class waves on Oahu as historical landmarks. Hemmings is proud of the work it took to introduce and pass the law and was honored to be inducted into the Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame.
"There are certain things that are given to you in life that are invaluable—foremost is your family and loved ones, but this is certainly one of them," he said.
"I want all the people of Hawaii to know that one of the greatest playgrounds is the ocean and surf of Hawaii."