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Duke Kahanamoku, Ambassador of Aloha

duke-surfboard.jpgDuke Paoa Kahinu Mokue Hulikohola Kahanamoku

Aloha : Affection, Peace, Compassion and Mercy.

Hero :    A man admired for achievements and noble qualities. 

One who shows great courage.

In these times of reluctant alliances and forced allegiance to the lesser of two evils many of us find ourselves in desperate need of Heroes and human symbols of a higher calling. People who take us out of the mire and lead us with grace, beauty and integrity.

Ladies and Gentleman, For those who may be unfamiliar with the Ambassador of Aloha, please allow us to introduce Duke Kahanamoku.

Dukes humble beginnings in Honolulu, Hawaii saw him develop and excel in all aspects of water sports. The tranquil shallows and the rolling waves saw him develop into a powerful, fast swimmer and a world class proponent in the ancient Hawaiian art of Surfing.

At age 20 Duke was the fastest 100 yard swimmer on the planet, he beat the World record by over 4 seconds! He continued representing the USA Olympic team for 20 years, winning many gold, silver and bronze medals.

Duke introduced surfing to Australia and New Zealand, gave exhibitions of surfing to both US coasts, worked in Southern California at athletic clubs and movie studios, played minor rolls in about 30 movies and counted John Wayne, Johnny Weissmuller and Jack London amongst his friends. And oh yes! In 1925 he happened to be on hand for a heroic rescue of 8 lost souls who he personally saved when a boat capsized in heavy surf at the entrance to Newport Harbor (his surfer friends saved another 4 between them). On that day 17 people drowned and Duke’s act of lifesaving using a surfboard encouraged the practice of equipping lifeguards with paddle-boards.

At the same time in a parallel universe Duke was a man of color, a pure Hawaiian. Exclusion from Haole institutions in his native Hawaii and those on the segregated mainland of the USA hurt. (If one part of the "United States" is segregated then surely all of it is, or how can it be united?)

Duke bore prejudice with grace and dignity. It is testament to the Duke that he rose above the yoke of bigotry and demanded respect through diplomacy, kindness and Aloha. He loved spirited competition.

On inception The Outrigger canoe club was essentially a whites only outfit operating out of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Duke was instrumental in instigating a rival surf/ canoe club for Hawaiians at the Moana Hotel, called Hui Nalu (club of the waves).  By 1918 he held a lifetime membership at the Outrigger Canoe club, essentially busting down another door and accepting the laurel of respect offered to him and his fellow Hawaiian watermen.

Dukes diplomacy inevitably took him into public office, he became the Sheriff of Honolulu from 1932 to 1961.  In 1960 he was sworn into office for the new State of Hawaii by the Queen Mother of Great Britain. 

His title : Ambassador of Aloha for the State of Hawaii.

"In Hawaii we greet friends, loved ones and strangers with Aloha, which means with love. Aloha is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality, which makes Hawaii renowned as the worlds center of understanding and fellowship. Try meeting or leaving people with Aloha. You'll be surprised at their reaction. I believe it and it is my creed.”      

             - Duke Kahanamoku