The Life & Times of Duke Kahanamoku | David Davis | Talks at Google

JEREMY STERN: Greetings and welcome My name is Jeremy Stern, with Google Fiber And on August 24, 2015, the Google Doodle for the day honored the 125th birthday of the great Duke Kahanamoku– a five-time Olympic Medalist in swimming, and the father of modern surfing No American athlete has influenced two sports has profoundly as Kahanamoku did And yet, he remains an enigmatic and under-appreciated figure Our guest today will share his deep insights and expertise on the life and times of Duke Kahanamoku, a true waterman I’m delighted to introduce to Google noted author and writer, David Davis David, an Angeleno, has published several books And his works have been published and appeared in “The Los Angeles Times,” “The New York Times,” “The Wall Street Journal,” “Sports Illustrated,” and many other illustrious publications A couple administrate matters– of course, we’re taping this for “Talks at Google,” a site on YouTube And there will be time for questions at the end And because we’re taping, please make sure that you use the microphone to ask your questions so that we capture your questions for the video audience David, welcome to Google, Los Angeles DAVID DAVIS: Thank you so much Thanks, Jeremy [APPLAUSE] DAVID DAVIS: Welcome, everybody Thanks for having me Enjoy your lunch while we talk a little bit about Duke And just to preface this, partly why I embarked on this project starting in 2011 is there really hadn’t been– that I had seen– a comprehensive biography of Duke Kahanamoku And it was one of those sort of mysteries, as why hasn’t there been, because of his enormous impact and legacy? So the interesting thing was the more research I did, the more I uncovered that he was sort of bigger than life, maybe even than I imagined So what I’d like to do today with you is, in a sense, give you a little overview of his life And what’s sort of interesting is that his life– beyond just the sports angle, which is, of course, an important part of the book and the research– really parallels modern Hawaii And really, starting from his from his birth, from his roots And he is full-blooded Hawaiian This is his father, Duke Kahanamoku Sr, Who was, as you can see, part of the Honolulu Police Department at that time And interesting note, one of his colleagues at the time was the real-life model for Charlie Chan, the detective Who, of course, was made into several films But he was a Sergeant, Duke Kahanamoku Everybody at the time– 1890, when Duke is born– Hawaii’s a monarchy It’s an independent nation run by Queen Liliuokalani And there was sort of a mystery about Duke’s first name A lot of people thought oh, he’s got to be royalty or related And actually, Hawaii royal bloodlines are quite complicated He wasn’t a direct lineage But his name really just came from his father, which was Duke And this is his mother, Julia And it’s really her family, the Paoa family– P-A-O-A– that, in a sense, Duke takes his Waterman roots from The Paoa family were quite influential as waterman And I use that term specifically in Hawaii and Honolulu, Waikiki Waterman is really an honorific title It’s a very important part of the culture Of course, of Hawaii being such an isolated island chain and especially wasn’t even sort of “discovered” until very late in the game And so to be a waterman, I mean, that means you how to paddle You know how to sail You know where the fishing holes are You know the tides, the wind It’s a very important aspect And Duke, in a sense, takes his roots, his waterman roots, from the Paoa family And the other thing that they took, in a sense– his mother’s family– they had a plot of land in Waikiki

And 1893, when Hawaii’s monarchy gets toppled– of course, America having a huge influence and stake in this– the family retreats to Waikiki And Duke is raised in Waikiki and spends much of his formative years in Waikiki, which people know today, all the tourist, hotels, et cetera But back then, my gosh, it was so isolated And it was freshwater streams coming down from the mountains There were taro patches, rice paddies, that sort of thing It was this sort of idyllic water festival of life And if you were born and raised there you just ran into the ocean That was part of your upbringing, part of what you did This is really the first example we have of Duke playing sports He went to the Kamehameha schools Frankly, they’re very prestigious in this day and age But at the time, were really trade schools for native Hawaiians And it was part of the effort to inculcate religion and speak English language only, that sort of thing And if I can make this work you can see Duke, of course, in the back– I’m not sure I can make this work– on the soccer team Let me see Can I make it? Yeah And this is the Kamehameha schools And he was quite a good soccer player But his forte, his efforts would really come via the water And this is an early shot of Duke and his surfboard And as you can see, these are enormous planks of wood And for those of you who know surfing history, surf historians, back then the surfboards were basically 100, 125-pound planks of wood– Koa or Redwood, 12-foot, 16-feet long It was a very different style of surfing than today, which are the foam boards and shorter and very maneuverable with fins and that sort of thing These, one commentator called them coffin lids as a description And that’s basically what they were But I will point out– and you’ll see some photos of Duke a little bit later without his top– it seems to me that this is, in a sense, the first instance or one of the first instances of cross training Because he had to lug that board through the sand I mean, if you’re going to go surfing you had to lug a 120-pound board through the sand, get out there, paddle out The thing gets soaked You got to bring that back in And you’re walking around And that’s a workout And you’ll see he’s really got a modern body I mean, this was probably taken about 1912, 1915 And this is what it looks like I mean, it was pretty much you paddled out And you came straight in And this is shot in Waikiki, probably near Diamond Head area And we know today about the North Shore Those are the big surf contests in Hawaii and Oahu And those are generally coming up actually– December, Christmastime Nobody could surf the North Shore back then It just wasn’t possible with the equipment, with the boards You basically just went straight And Duke comes around So we’re talking 1900, when he’s 10 America makes Hawaii a colony of sorts However you want to look at it It was part of the imperialistic surge of America in the late 1890’s The Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, America going beyond the mainland boundaries And very specifically strategic, military looking to Asia, Pacific Rim and Britain So that makes Duke an American citizen, which of course changes the direction of his life And one of that direction is about sports, and organized sports, and America having something called the AAU, which was a way to organize amateur sports back then That was something that Duke could participate in And just before I leave this slide and move on to his swimming career, it’s interesting to note that Duke, we call him the father of surfing And one of the reasons we say that is he and some other mates on Waikiki formed, basically, the first surf club, which was called the Hui Nalu And they were, in a sense, orphans Because the main athletic club at

the time was the Outrigger Canoe Club And the Outrigger Canoe Club was whites only And so Duke and his mates formed their own more informal club called the Hui Nalu And that became the basis of– and they devised some of– the rules that we still deal with in terms of surfing And the Hui Nalu became an area that Duke could springboard with when it came to swimming Because while in Hawaii, he maybe had been known for his surfing skills And basically, at that time, the only surfing that was done was in Hawaii To get beyond that, he turned to competitive swimming This photo is a historic photo Again, one of those moments when Duke’s life changes forever This is 1911 in August First AAU meet ever in Hawaii And it’s a swim meet And Duke is out in front by quite a bit He sets two world’s records that day in the 50 and the 100 And as you can see, it’s Honolulu It’s outdoors That’s what most of the swimming events were back then It was outdoors There were very few pools There wasn’t the modern guidelines that we have today with its 50 meters and you know, and precisely measured This is sort of sports just beginning to get organized And Duke, does indeed, set the records in the 50 and the 100 What’s interesting is that when the Hawaiian officials quite proudly send the marks in to New York, the home office of the AAU, the records are rejected And they give all sorts of weak and lame excuses for why the records were turned down But basically, it was sort of its Hawaii It’s so far away They have no oversight They have no knowledge of Hawaii and what these athletes can do So they reject Duke’s record and records And it’s interesting to note that while that was obviously a setback and Duke was upset about it, what it did was it rallied the Hawaiian community around Duke Because they were as well insulted by that And they decided to prove that Duke could actually swim that fast, could beat the best on the mainland And he came from a working-class family By this time he had dropped out of high school He was making a living as a beach boy, what we would call a beach boy today, taking tourists out, teaching them how to swim and maybe surf lessons or in an outrigger canoe And Hawaii rallied around Duke and paid for him to come to the mainland in 1912 to try to qualify for the US Olympic team that was going to Sweden, to Stockholm, to compete at the 1912 Olympics So here’s Duke You know, his first presence on the mainland And as you can see, those are the competitive swimsuits of the day They were heavy, heavy cotton If they were lucky they were silk But they were heavy cotton Men had to wear, like, almost like a codpiece-type thing And if you think that’s restrictive, you should have seen what the women had to wear But they were very, very elaborate contests This is the end of the Victorian prudish era But Duke was an anomaly at this time, in 1912 Few people had ever been to Hawaii Few people could ever find it on a map, quite frankly And here he is, a dark-skinned Pacific Islander, coming to represent the United States at the Olympics And that was a little bit different Maybe there were some Native Americans– most prominently, Jim Thorpe on the team– but it was pretty much a white-only team in the Olympics at that time for America And here’s Duke, with the entire US Olympic swim team for 1912 And if you think about Duke’s journey, he had to take a steamship from Honolulu to the mainland, take railroads across the country, and then take another ship from New York to Stockholm to compete And at that time– just as a side note– you can see there’s, what, seven men? And the head of the amateur AAU was James Sullivan He was not a big proponent of women in sports And so this was the first Olympics that women swimmers were competing But James Sullivan refused to allow the Americans to field a women’s team So it was just the men And Duke, quite frankly, is great You see him here in the middle This is all outdoors So you know, it’s quite frigid conditions in Stockholm,

though apparently the weather was actually quite nice So they got lucky But Duke smashed records He won the 100 in quite controversial fashion So there were a lot of headlines about was he going to make the finals? Did he make the finals? Will he win the gold medal? Well, he did And then they won They took the silver medal in the relay And just to point out, there were just very, very few swimming events back then So we talk about Michael Phelps winning eight Olympic medals in the last Olympics Well, I don’t even think there were eight swimming events for the men just by themselves There was no Butterfly There was no Individual Medley There was maybe one Relay, that sort of thing So we’re talking the opportunity was not very vast for him as a swimmer But he made the most of it And here he is, accepting his medal from the King, King Gustaf And like Jim Thorpe, Duke Kahanamoku returns to America a star, a celebrity Here he is marching, parading in New York City, with the Olympic team And by the way, that’s a camera that he’s holding in his left hand That’s those big, clunky cameras back then He’s now famous Anywhere he goes for appearances, for meets, its headline They want to interview him And this says, “Kanaka Swimmer Has No Equal in the Water.” “Kanaka” refers to Hawaiian native It’s a little controversial term in and of itself But I mean, there weren’t anybody like Duke And so press and media felt OK to just call him what they wanted to And they would make up interviews and just publish it, frankly But he’s a celebrity And people demand his services to swim They want to see him This is his trip to Australia, 1914-1915 You see that little speck in the water? Black, dark speck? That’s Duke surfing And the people on shore are just amazed They think this is a guy walking on water There had maybe been not even a handful of surfers in Australia This is the first celebrity And so when he would come newspapers would write about him He didn’t come with a board, by the way, when he went to Australia He went to swim And then he decided– he saw the waves– said, “Hey, I’m going to surf.” He went to a lumber yard and shaped a board and carved it out And it was, I think, some pine wood in Australia And then he would leave it behind And in a sense, he was sort of the Johnny Appleseed of surfing He would leave a board That would become the model And people would, “Oh, yeah Let’s do that shape.” and he was very happy to leave that alone And you can see, here he is in the middle This is the crowds that he would draw He went there in the winter Of course, our winter, Australia’s summer And so everybody just would mob to come out to see him And he toured He would compete in San Francisco, at the Sutro Baths He would come down here to Southern California He started surfing in Corona Del Mar, Long Beach, the South Bay Those were the big, big surf areas back then And Corona Del Mar, being the jewel And we’ll see a little bit more of that later But he’s starting to establish an international reputation And he’s starting to make friends in Southern California and Los Angeles, especially people at the Los Angeles Athletic Club And again, that will play out later in his life One of his trips to Southern California, he was in Hollywood He was put in a movie And you can see the gentleman on Duke’s left was Hobart Bosworth, a famous producer/director at the time, a buddy of Jack London And he brought Duke in and made a little two reeler These are all silent movies, of course And just to point out, you can see Duke’s body I mean, that’s a modern-day body And most of his opponents, quite frankly, did not have that This is again, he wasn’t natural He trained He was a competitor And by the way, that movie is lost, unfortunately, like a lot of the silent movies of today When he would go to the mainland– and this was shot in Chicago– he often was backed by the Hawaii promotion outfit

And Duke would be, “Hey, play a ditty Play a song.” He would do that It would help promote Hawaii, which the business interests were very, very keen on And Duke– through his sports, through surfing and through swimming– he was helping to promote Hawaii And again, this will be part of a theme in his life, that he becomes so connected to his homeland, to Hawaii And he was, of course, very proud of that I should point out in 1916, again, when we talk about oh, he won five Olympic medals That’s a lot But, you know, Michael Phelps did that in one Olympics But the Olympics of 1916 were cancelled, of course, for World War I. They were supposed to be in Berlin And so Duke, in the prime of his athletic life, was not able to defend his crown in 1916 But he decides to stay on and stay an amateur and that’s no easy feat back then Because there weren’t endorsements You weren’t allowed to take an endorsement if you were an amateur athlete So Duke did make it to the 1920 Olympics This is him on the far right, with his teammates, many of whom were Hawaiian And Duke, again, just– not shocks the world By then he’s the defending champ– but he’s also 30 years old, which is quite ancient for swimmers, even today And Duke defends his title in the 100 and wins the gold, wins the relay as well, sort of adding to his fame And having skipped 1916 Olympics from 1912 to 1920, it’s a pretty incredible feat And here you can see this is the Relay team The Olympics of 1920 were in Antwerp It was sort of a last-minute thing The Pierre de Coubertin, the head of the IOC at the time, wanted to get the Olympics get back going after World War I And so the Olympics were in Antwerp And frankly, they were a war-torn country at that time and weren’t really prepared And the conditions were just abysmal, including the pool, absolutely frigid temperatures And you can see them, the guys just sort of huddling to stay warm And as I said, Duke’s Relay team wins the gold So he adds two gold medals I do point out that the competition wasn’t that great in 1920 because of the damage of the war, unfortunately Germany was not allowed to compete Russia was not allowed to compete in 1920 And frankly, a lot of the competitors from Australia, the young men from Australia, many had died or been wounded in the war So the competition level was a little less in 1920 But Duke was there And he trained and won the gold And just so you can see what the start line looks like in 1920, outdoors, masses of people around After the Olympics, Duke returns briefly to Hawaii But he comes to Southern California for the first time for an extended stay in 1922 And he’s brought here by a promoter specifically to be a Hollywood star And these are one of the promotion pictures I believe this is Venice Beach And you know, Duke, of course, shooting a few golf balls while his promoter handler has the surfboard in the background And the initial plans fell through And Duke was not a star And as you’ll see– and I’ll get to this a little bit later– he did run across, of course, Hollywood The racism of Hollywood at the time, and certainly, no leading man could be a non-white, to get the girl and so on So Duke has a good time, though He surfs in Southern California as you can see Up and down That’s I think, Corona del Mar, Venice That was on the cover of “The Los Angeles Times” Sunday magazine And again, a little bit risque in the sense of you have a dark-skinned man and the woman is actually the wife of his coach And Duke joins the Los Angeles Athletic Club And you can see their logo That’s one of the Olympic swimmers By now, James Sullivan has died So women can now compete for America in the Olympics And they do quite well in diving and in swimming That’s Mickey Riley, another great diver And Duke’s wearing a beard there

He gets, basically, to be an extra in the films And I’ll show you some other slides of that But that logo on his waist, or around his thigh there, that’s still the mercury logo of the Los Angeles Athletic Club And that became the basis of his life both in terms of athletics and swimming competition, but also social life and so forth A lot of Hollywood stars were part of the Los Angeles Athletic Club And he stays in training Because the Hollywood thing didn’t really pan out in 1922, ’23, he decides to go for the Olympics in 1924, which were in Paris This is a beautiful outdoor stadium It was the first pool that was 50 meters for the Olympics, I believe, or at least built that way But now Duke is 34 years old Again, now beyond ancient for swimming, and especially sprints And so there’s some major competition, including his younger brother Duke had about six, seven siblings This is Sam Kahanamoku Smaller, but had emerged in the early 20s as the top sprinter in Hawaii So Duke is competing against his younger brother And he’s also competing against a guy who would become his arch rival in this time span And this is, of course, Johnny Weissmuller And the logo, it’s Illinois Athletic Club They were out of Chicago And that was a hotbed of competitive swimming And Johnny was, in some ways, very similar to Duke He was working class stock He was a high school drop out In some ways, they were very similar He was also an amazing swimmer And he is 21, 22 years old here Duke is 34 And they don’t meet The newspapers sort of build up this rivalry They don’t meet until the Olympic trials of 1924 And then they meet again in the Olympics And spoiler alert, we’ll tell you what happens on that And so here is the Olympic team for 1924, for the United States, as you can see in there This is the Hawaiian contingent, as you can see There’s now women on the team, and Duke and his younger brother And this is the finals And Duke and Johnny head to head and Johnny is on the right there in the middle of the frame of the photo And Johnny wins the gold medal Duke takes silver But this is now the ’20s, we’re talking the Roaring ’20s And whereas Duke was a big star, a major star, Johnny turns out to be a megastar I mean, you’ve got the ’20s of Babe Ruth You’ve got Jack Dempsey You’ve got sports stars becoming bigger than life And Johnny takes advantage of that, as we’ll see And Duke was friends with Johnny They were rivals of course, but was friends, even afterwards, as we’ll see, as well, later But obviously it was a disappointment This was going to be perhaps his swan song for Duke at the Olympics And only get second And his younger brother, Sam, got the bronze medal So Duke retreated to Hollywood, or Southern California And he did pursue a career He signed with Paramount And here he is in “Lord Jim.” And he’s helping to teach one of the actresses how to swim Here he is in “The Pony Express,” playing a Native American Indian, of course He was actually a good horseback rider This is “Hula,” which is one of the few that were actually having a Hawaiian theme in it And the actress that he’s playing with is Clara Bow, who was known as the “It” girl, was the big star of Hollywood back in the early ’20s But I think you can sort of see a theme emerging, which is to say, Duke was not a star He was an extra And he was playing these character roles, what we would call ethnic roles And that was an unfortunately the extent And he appeared in a couple dozen movies, but never got really the big, big star And most of these were silent Some of these are lost today We don’t have access to them But some of it, like “Hula,” we have a full version of Which it’s a pretty amazing little movie, actually Here he is, playing a Barbary pirate, getting strangled by Wallace Beery And there’s the glamour shot And again, as you can tell, he’s playing a tribesmen of sorts

And unfortunately that was about as far as he could go in Hollywood And this is probably about 1925, ’26, ’27, around that time He still keeps surfing He teaches some of the Hollywood community how to surf He’s one of the first surfers to surf in Malibu and starts extending surfing as surfing becomes sort of beyond Hawaii and coming to Southern California And this was probably taken in Corona del Mar, down in Orange County, which was the primo surf spot, as I mentioned And you can see that board is just whatever, 12 feet, 16 feet And he would retreat here with buddies from the Los Angeles Athletic Club And it was at Corona del Mar in 1925 that Duke made national headlines again And when I was researching this book I kept running across references of Duke rescuing people swimming And this was in Hawaii This was on the mainland And it was sort of part and parcel of being a waterman You would notice people who didn’t swim very well And quite frankly, in those days, they didn’t have a lot of swimming instruction and fins to learn on as a kid So there were many accidents back in that day of drowning and so forth So I kept running across this, Duke rescuing people, would-be drowning victims And it all came to fruition in 1925 in Corona del Mar And these are his buddies, a couple buddies from the Los Angeles Athletic Club And what happened that day, it was a fishing vessel A recreational fishing vessel went out with a bunch of guys from Riverside, California They were going to fish for abalone And they were trying to get out of the harbor And they got smashed by a groundswell And a couple just rogue waves just slammed into the boat, The Thelma, and it capsized and overturned And Duke, as you can see with this surf board, saw what was happening They were just down to surf He ran out into the surf, paddled out, threw three guys– drowning victims– on his surfboard Paddled in, deposited them on the beach to his buddies Went out again, got three more Paddled in, did it one more time And he was credited later– overall– with rescuing eight people And never got, really thank you’d for it by the people at that time, though he got some medals from the Los Angeles Athletic Club But it was one of those episodes, again, he made national headlines But it was also important because people realized the importance of a surfboard It wasn’t just about recreation You know? It was a life-saving device, perhaps It was something beyond just, OK we’re going to have fun in the waves So it established that tradition By now, Duke is late 30s The Hollywood career, not working out so well He retreats to Hawaii for a while and tries to figure out what’s next He had never really taken a job He got some crappy jobs He was, like, a janitor People were horrified to discover he was mowing the lawn of City Hall in Honolulu And he’s just trying to figure out what is next And frankly, Los Angeles called And 1932 is Los Angeles Olympics And the Olympic games of ’32 in LA were pretty much spearheaded by the Los Angeles Athletic Club So they basically called Duke and said, hey, do you want to give it one more time? And he’s now, basically, 40 years old But he loves LA Olympic games of ’32, this is the first time since the games of 1904 that the Olympics are in what they would call the new world And 1904 games, nobody even noticed them So this was a big deal So he said, you know what? I’m going to try for it See what happens And as you can see, the games, this was the building They built the Colosseum in the ’20s to bid for the games And obviously the reference today, of course, LA looking for the 2024 bid But they certainly had the wherewithal to build it And Curtis, by the way, that headline is the Vice President Herbert Hoover decided not to show up for the opening ceremonies This is during, of course, the Depression And here’s Duke He’s on the far left there, with Johnny Weissmuller

in the middle And the fellow next to him is a guy named Buster Crabbe, who you guys may know as a great swimmer and also, of course, as an actor But Duke is not able to make the team in 1932 Other people have written that he did make the team and I think we try to debunk that in the book, as we try to debunk a few myths that have arisen around Duke And this is one of them But he fails to make the team, frankly And the gentleman who does succeed– and he’s finishing up here– is Buster Crabbe And Buster is the American male to win a gold medal Actually, it’s the Japanese swimmers are the dominant swimmers in 1932, 1936 But Buster Crabbe, by being in LA and winning and being who he is, he’s a great-looking guy and very charismatic Of course, Buster Crabbe, as we know, went on to a huge Hollywood career And of course, so did Duke’s earlier rival, which was Johnny Weissmuller And this comes out right around the time of the 1932 Olympic games And of course, Johnny Weissmuller as “Tarzan.” It was perfect for him He could wear a loin cloth He didn’t have to say very much except grunt a little bit and play with the monkey And it must have been a little disappointing Duke was a very taciturn guy He didn’t talk about his emotions and disappointments But this was probably certainly one of them And he pretty much retreated to Hawaii after this He left LA around 1930, came back for the ’32 games, moved back to Hawaii These are two of his brothers, Sargent and Sam And basically, he travels quite a bit But he spends most of the rest of his life in Hawaii, back in his homeland And tries to figure out what’s next What does a high school dropout do? And he is persuaded to run for Sheriff of Honolulu And it’s sort of patronage type job But it’s also an elected office And he runs and wins every other year And that becomes his job He follows from his father who is the police Sergeant in law enforcement And he holds that job from, basically, mid to late ’30s all the way up to 1959 when, of course, Hawaii becomes the 50th state He also has a sideline, which is to say– you see him in the back of the Outrigger, Diamond Head in the distance– you know, he’s now as big a celebrity as pretty much every sports star And so when important people come to Hawaii in the ’30s– and tourism is now starting to really boom in Hawaii, of course Because transportation’s a little bit easier People have some money after the Depression– and so the rich and the famous come And they are often are steered to Duke for entertainment, to go out in an outrigger, and to just hobnob with Duke Kahanamoku So of course, there’s Babe Ruth, who was en route or coming back from Japan to do an exhibition in the ’30s And Amelia Earhart, of course, before her plane crash And if necessary, he would indulge in a little Hula if the spirit moved him And he was a great, great dancer, apparently And one of the controversial aspects of his life that had really never been brought out before certainly about him outside of the sports realm was one of the famous people who came to Hawaii in the ’30s And that’s Doris Duke, who, as you see, is in the middle with Duke and his brothers And Doris Duke, for those who don’t know that name, her family is Duke University It was the tobacco fortune And her parents died when she was very young She was the richest little girl in the world And she came to Hawaii for a honeymoon and loved Hawaii, loved the Kahanamoku brothers And that’s Sam Kahanamoku and Doris Duke And again, she’s a married woman And so there have been reports of did she have an affair with Sam? Did she have an affair with Duke? She had a child who was born who lived for a couple days and then passed away And nobody is sure who the father was And there’s been rumors that it was Duke or Sam

So that was a bit of a mystery In this time, Duke marries in 1940, to Nadine Alexander, or Nah-dean Alexander, as she would pronounce it And she was a Haole woman– a white woman– from the mainland She was a ballroom dancer/instructor And by all accounts, quite a bit of an age difference By all accounts, very different, but enjoyed a long marriage And Duke was married to her for the rest of his life And so he’s now settled We’re talking 1940 He’s ensconced as the Sheriff of Honolulu He’s married And of course, all that gets disrupted by Pearl Harbor in 1941 Duke is part of the law enforcement but not a big part of the war effort But it does, of course, change again, the direction of Hawaii and where it’s going Duke remains– during this time– still sort of a celebrity I mean, he comes to the mainland to Santa Cruz to surf, to bring a team This is Southern California And this was taken by a famous early surf photographer, Doc Ball And this is Duke in Orange County, like, 1949 And it’s interesting Because he gets embraced by the surf community The Olympic committee’s there But the Olympics are every four years The surfing’s going nuts And surfing is really starting to grow in the post-war America, and especially on the mainland, Southern California starting to rival Hawaii as the epicenter of surfing And Duke is seen as sort of the godfather of surfing He’s the connection between ancient surf riding and the modern era And they’re starting to move away from wood boards They’re going to the more modern boards And Duke has a surf team He gets backed by a promoter And they have a Duke Kahanamoku invitational I’m skipping ahead a little bit But this is North Shore I mean, because now, even though those boards are pretty big by today’s standards, they are a lot more maneuverable They’ve got fins and people have been starting to surf the North Shore starting from the late ’50s So that becomes the epicenter of surfing in Hawaii, the North Shore And these are three of those gentlemen are still alive today I interviewed all three of them for the book And they’re all in the surfing hall of fame He opened up his club, the Duke Kahanamoku’s Club His big act– who he helped make a huge star– was, of course, Don Ho So Don Ho broke big there And of course, you know the restaurants today, Duke’s, like in Malibu, and also in Hawaii, and in Orange County, they’re not connected with that Duke Kahanamoku’s But it was that initial idea And in a sense, Duke was one of the first athletes to be branded, what we would call branded today And it was about creating surfboards and a club and that sort of thing He was still trotted out when need be, when President John F. Kennedy came I tried really hard to make a connection with Duke and President Obama because, of course, President Obama was born in ’61 in Hawaii And I tried I’m not sure how successful I was But I’m hoping he reads the book and lets me know if there’s any anecdotes for the paperback edition And he’s honored I mean, now he’s an older man He’s in his late 70s He’s there at the Swimming Hall of Fame, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Crabbe But like I said, he’s really more connected with the surf community For various reasons, in part by the promotion And in part, because surfing gets really super sexy in the ’60s You’ve got Gidget You’ve got the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, that sort of thing Duke’s health starts failing in the late ’60s He has some illnesses and ailments He’s looking a little bit old there He dies in 1968, which was the same year– people have pointed out– as “Hawaii Five-0”– the original “Hawaii Five-0”– comes on the air So there’s your life span You know, Queen Liliuokalani to “Hawaii Five-0” and “Book ’em, Danno!” And his funeral was one of the biggest beach boy funerals on the beaches of Waikiki And Nadine, his widow, is in the white And that’s on the beach And they take out his ashes into the ocean and sprinkle them, the traditional beach boy funeral So I’ll wrap this up and again, welcome your questions afterwards

His legacy, of course, is extensive I mean, they rallied to do a postage stamp He’s the godfather of surfing, so much so that in 1999, they called him the surfer of the century He hadn’t surfed in 50 years That’s his legacy He’s the touchstone to the ancient days of Hawaii, to those traditions, to the modern era And of course, to today, turning 125 this summer And as you can see, even Google just said surfboard, surfboard, surfboard And as well it should Because that’s what we’ll know But I mentioned the branding I think that was an important element And I do also want to point out– as I’ve talked about, touched on during this talk– his role as a racial pioneer And I think that was been ignored People talk about Jesse Owens and Joe Louis and Jack Johnson and well and good heroes and pioneers And I think sometimes Duke has been lost in that shuffle And I hope this book brings that out So thank you for your attention And thanks for coming And I would love to welcome your questions AUDIENCE: So I’ve been to the Outrigger Canoe Club And there’s a plaque on the wall And it says that he was a member So I guess maybe later they made him a member? DAVID DAVIS: Correct Correct They were shamed into it But after his Olympic heroics, and after he was supported and his nickname was the Ambassador of Aloha And there’s still a big statue of Duke on the beach in Waikiki Once that happened, once they, the business interests, realized that he was an asset to Hawaii and to promoting Hawaii, yeah They brought him into the fold And it’s controversial to this day, a little bit Because when his widow passed away some years after his death, the legacy of his name and likeness went to a nonprofit, but controlled by the Outrigger And a lot of Hawaiians were upset about that Because it was usurping the name, the Kahanamoku name, under the Outrigger, which had turned him away But yes, he was a member starting from the late teens, and then for the rest of his life And he made that one of his one of his locales AUDIENCE: OK, thanks DAVID DAVIS: Thank you, yeah AUDIENCE: You alluded to some controversy about his first Olympics Can you say something else about that? DAVID DAVIS: Sure In 1912, in Stockholm– so the 100 meters, I guess there were three Americans competing to make it to the finals And they came out after winning the quarter finals And they were told by their coaches, oh, the semifinals are the next day So they all retreated to the ship That was the athletes’ village back then for the American team The athletes slept on the ship They didn’t realize, or they got the wrong information And the semi’s were that night And the three Americans missed it They missed the race Technically, they should have been disqualified And there were several countries, athletes who said, hey, they’re done Apparently some of the Australian contingent athletes said, hey, that’s unfair This is 1912 Hey, that’s unfair That’s not good sportsmanship You can’t penalize them for just missing a start time So the swimming powers that be met and came up with a compromise, which was they got another heat to race And Duke was able to win and qualify for the finals And then in the finals, he wins But this was over several days And so when you read the newspapers from back then, the headlines are “Kahanamoku misses race,” or “Disqualified.” And so it took days before they could figure this out in Hawaii And remember, back then it’s telegraph and so forth, communication wise It’s not quite the Google aspect of things So there was a lot of controversy And that gentleman who spearheaded the Australian contingent saying, hey, let Duke race was a guy named Cedric Healy And Duke beat him Cedric Healy got the silver medal So his good sportsmanship maybe cost him a gold And unfortunately, just on a postscript, Cedric Healy was killed at Gallipoli in 1915 or 1916 But yeah, that was the controversy [APPLAUSE]