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Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, 24 Aug 1890 - 22 Jan 1968
Gelatin silver print
Mat: 45.7 x 35.6cm (18 x 14")
Image/Sheet: 14.4 x 9.9cm (5 11/16 x 3 7/8")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
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Duke Kahanamoku transformed the Hawaiian pastime of surfing into a worldwide competitive sport. He first made headlines as a record-breaking swimmer who introduced the flutter kick to the sport. Having won gold medals at the 1912 and 1920 Olympics, he was arguably the best swimmer of his era, described by the press as a "human fish." When he traveled away from Hawaii, he often brought his surfboard and guitar; surfing and music were two pursuits that provided him a sense of escape. In 1912 he introduced surfing to California, and two years later he awed crowds in Australia with his board skills. Kahanamoku developed his own line of surf clothing and experimented with smaller, lighter boards, an example of which appears in this early photograph. An easygoing, modest man, he later served thirteen consecutive terms as sheriff of Honolulu and became a revered icon during a transitional period in Hawaiian history.