How the father of surfing became an idol -- first in Hawaii, then around the world
Duke Paoa Kahanamoku may be known as a legendary surfer, but museum-goers are about to learn much more about one of Hawaii’s most famous sons.
Kahanamoku’s legacy will be recalled in an exhibit Aug. 9-Nov. 30 at Honolulu’s Bishop Museum. Visitors will learn that his talents went well beyond his athleticism.
Many consider him the father of modern surfing. He’s fondly remembered in a statue along Waikiki Beach, standing beside a surfboard.
Kahanamoku’s rugged, exotic looks earned him roles in a dozen Hollywood movies starting in 1925. Among the titles: "Isle of Sunken Gold," "Lord Jim," "Hula," "Woman Wise," "The Rescue," "Girl of the Port," and "Isle of Escape."
He also had a role in the 1955 movie "Mister Roberts," playing Chief Duke Kahanamoko. The comedy starred Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, James Cagney, William Powell and Ward Bond.
Kahanamoku died of a heart attack on Jan. 22, 1968.
Besides a wealth of artifacts, including his 10-foot redwood surfboard, his many sporting trophies and his ukulele, the exhibit will also engage visitors with modern technology.
Using a 3-D video game, guests reenact a legendary 1917 feat in which Kahanamoku rode atop a towering Waikiki wave on a finless surfboard for more than a mile.
Visitors can also try to replicate his 1920 Olympic record in the men’s 100-meter freestyle. The “Race Duke” attraction uses a table-top, upper-body pedal exerciser to simulate swimming.
In his mid-40s, Kahanamoku briefly operated two gas stations before being elected sheriff of Honolulu County in 1935. He served until the position was abolished after Hawaii became a state in 1959. He was then appointed its goodwill ambassador.
“Aloha,” he once said, “is my creed.”
The Bishop Museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except Tuesdays. Admission is $19.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors (65 plus) and $14.95 for youth (4-12).
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