The single best known figure in modern surfing history is Duke Paoa Kahanamoku. Renowned for his athletic talents, Duke promoted both surfing and Hawai`i to the world. Representing the United States in four Olympic games over a span of 22 years, he won his first gold medal for the 100 meter freestyle at the 1912
Stockholm Olympics. Duke traveled throughout the United States, Europe and Australia competing in swimming exhibitions and demonstrating surfing. Tom Blake was one whose life course was changed by Duke. Blake saw Kahanamoku in Detroit on his way back from the 1920
Antwerp Olympics and Blake decided then to become a swimmer himself. He moved to Hawai`i just four years later.
On his home turf, Duke was an active member of the Waikiki beach community. He and his five younger brothers - sons of a Honolulu police captain - were all avid surfers, swimmers, and paddlers. Duke helped found the Outrigger Club, Hui Nalu, and the Waikiki Yacht Club. He served Honolulu as Sheriff for 13 terms after which he was Official Greeter for the City and County of Honolulu.
, Duke swam in the first Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) meet held in Honolulu. He demolished the 100-yard sprint record. Filled with disbelief over his speed, the judges ordered the Honolulu Harbor course remeasured four times.
Duke and his father were both named to commemorate an 1869
visit to Hawai`i by the English Duke of Edinburgh. Duke Kahanamoku Sr. was born in Princess Ruth's palace during the time the Duke of Edinburgh was there.