Duke Kahanamoku gets a happy birthday nod from Google


Monday is the 125th birthday of Duke Kahanamoku, the Olympic swimming champion and Hollywood actor from Hawaii who popularized surfing long before the sport arrived in California. To mark the occasion, illustrator Matt Cruickshank came up with the Google Doodle above.

waterman-duke-cover.jpgKahanamoku is one interesting dude — as LA Observed contributor David Davis will explain in the first comprehensive biography, Water Man: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku (out Oct. 1 from Univ. of Nebraska Press). Born in 1890 when Hawaii was still a kingdom, he and his brothers surfed on wood boards at Waikiki and exported the sport around the Pacific, including to Southern California. He became America's first Olympics swimming star with a gold medal at the 1912 games in Stockholm and the 1920 games in Antwerp, and won silver at Paris in 1924. He was an alternate on the U.S. water polo team at Los Angeles in 1932. While living in SoCal, and later back in Hawaii, he appeared in numerous films and TV shows, including the Oscar-nominated 1955 Navy comedy, "Mister Roberts." Kahanamoku is credited with saving the lives of eight people from an overturned fishing boat in Newport Harbor in 1925. He was the sheriff of Honolulu at the time of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, serving for 13 terms, and became a leading voice for Hawaii's statehood.

Below: Kahanamoku interviewed by Bruce Brown, the director of "Endless Summer."

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