2002-08-24 / Community

USPS To Honor Kahanamoku

USPS To Honor Kahanamoku

The United States Postal Service has announced that it will honor "Duke" Kahanamoku with the unveiling of a commemorative stamp in his honor at a ceremony to be held at Beach 116 Street and the boardwalk on Wednesday, August 28, at 10:30 a.m.

Kahanamoku was a one-time visitor to Rockaway in the 1920’s and Beach 38 Street was dedicated as "Duke Kahanamoku Way" more than ten years ago.

Almost 22 years of age when he won his first Olympic gold medal, Duke represented the United States in the Olympics for the next 20 years, winning not only medals but also the hearts of people all over the world. He is remembered not just as a swimmer for his remarkable speed, but for his grace in the water, good humor and sportsmanship.

Duke won his first Olympic gold medal and set a world record in the 100-meter free-style and won a silver as a participant in the 200-meter relay in Stockholm in 1912. He won his second and third gold medals in 1920 during the Antwerp Olympics, again breaking his world record in the 100-meter free-style and setting a world record on the free-style relay team. In the 1924 Paris Olympics, he won a silver medal for the 100-meter free-style. Then, in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, he was awarded a bronze medal as an alternate on the water polo team.

First to be inducted into both the swimming and surfing Halls of Fame, Duke won medals, trophies and worldwide fame as a swimmer, but surfed purely for the fun of it in an era before surfing was a competitive sport. His legendary longboard surfing was recorded on newsreels. Museums and memorials in Australia, California, Florida, New York, Hawaii and elsewhere pay tribute to his influence on surfers and the sport of surfing all over the world. Duke also is recognized in the Citizens Savings Hall of Fame Athletic Museum.

Duke was a descendant of Hawaiian royalty. And, although not a duke, his achievements in swimming and surfing, along with his good looks and unaffected charm, brought him the attention and admiration of royalty and a nine-year career in Hollywood. He appeared in about 30 movies and, although some were very minor roles, his career bridged the old silent movies and the "talkies." By nature, he was more suited to the silent movie. Duke never capitalized on his fame and was always gracious.

"He was concerned about everybody, especially the guys who were working the beach. He knew it wasn't easy, that you had to have a special type of talent," said former Waikiki beachboy George Downing. The "Waikiki beachboy" is a relic from another era. Legend casts him as a bronzed water man with enormous charm, good humor and musical genius. Duke was an originator of this group of surfers, and some still can be found on the beaches at Waikiki.

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