Birthday celebration for Hawaii's famous waterman

Jo-Anne Kahanamoku
Jo-Anne Kahanamoku

By Duane Shimogawa bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) -- Family, friends, fans and even Waikiki Beach Boys celebrate Hawaii's most celebrated waterman.

It's Duke Kahanamoku's birthday party.

Duke would've been 118 this weekend. The annual beach boy tribute honors him, the restaurant named after him and all his fellow beach boys, past and present.

A celebration for the ages, as people reflect on Duke Kahanamoku's life on his birthday.

"I was seven years old when I first met Duke, I was one of those guys carrying surf boards around, in those days, you're the gadut, in other words, you're the guy thats gotta do everything," Waikiki Beach Boy Tony Guerrero said.

"I was watching the olympics today and how it was so important to break records and to create this records, and yet I thought Duke at his time, I don't think that was the norm at that time," Duke's niece Jo-Anne Kahanamoku said.

Duke was Hawaii's first-ever olympic medalist.

"But the time I met him, you would never think he won four olympic gold medals, he was such a humble person, he personified what Hawaii is all about, I mean he personified the Aloha," Guerrero said.

That Aloha is shared today through events like the annual oceanfest.

"We need heroes today for young people, especially for young people, so that they have better goals in life and Duke was somewhat of an icon to his whole family including society," his niece said. "I believe it really has to do with the water, it has to be in the water."

That's where Duke made his mark and that's where others hope to follow in his legacy.

Duke's actual birthday is Sunday and just for the record, he won three olympic gold medals, two silver and a bronze, all for swimming.