Kauai Guide & Activity Map » Contact Kalapaki Beach Guide and Kauai Activity Map

Duke Kahanamoku's First Visit To Kauai

Duke Kahanamoku's First Visit To Kauai, Kauai, Hawaii
© Hank Soboleski

Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968), legendary surfer and winner of three gold and two silver Olympic medals in swimming and one bronze medal in water polo, first visited Kauai on July 4, 1933 on behalf of the Kauai Young Men's Buddhist Association's first island-wide swim meet witnessed by about 5,000 people at Pier 1 in Nawiliwili.

Twenty-two years earlier, Duke had first achieved fame in stunning fashion in his first sanctioned Amateur Athletic Union swim meet at the Alakea Slip in Honolulu Harbor, where he set a new world record in the 100-yard freestyle in the then unbelievable time of 55 2/5 seconds -- 4 3/5 seconds faster than the existing record.

And his famous over one mile long surf ride off Waikiki one day in 1917 in rare 15 to 20-foot surf is still recalled with awe to this day. (Later, long waves vanished at Waikiki when Kuekaunahi Stream was filled.)

At Nawiliwili, the crowd cheered Duke while he was introduced and performed an exhibition of several swimming strokes.

Although he was past his competitive prime, he was nonetheless still a powerful and stylish swimmer able to give the spectators a glimpse of his championship form. He began with the breast stroke, followed by the old English side stroke, and finished with the Australian crawl to the delight of all.

In the men's 100 yard freestyle, the biggest race of the day, Fritz Hayselden and Ah Hing Chow finished in a dead heat time of 1.8.

Other winners included: 50 free men: Poo, 50 free boys under 18: Y. Naito, 100 free boys under 18: Y. Naito, 200 YMBA inter-club relay: Lihue, 50 free girls: C. Holt. Breast stroke, back stroke and medley events were also held.