Duke Kahanamoku, Father of Surfing, on Today’s Google Doodle

Hawaiian born Duke Kahanamoku, known for being the Father of Surfing,  is being featured on Google Doodle today in honor of what would have been his 125th birthday.

Though Duke is primarily known for helping to establish the sport of surfing, he is also a decorated Olympic swimmer from the beginning of the 20th Century. Duke had a 12-year Olympic swimming career. He began in 1912 at the Stockholm Olympics, where he competed in the 100 meter freestyle and 4×200 meter freestyle relay, winning gold and silver respectively. Duke took away two golds in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics and a silver in the  1924 Paris competition. Additionally, he is the first person to ever be inducted into both the Swimming Hall of Fame and the Surfing Hall of Fame.

Duke Kahanamoku, Father of Surfing (Courtesy: Google)

Duke Kahanamoku, Father of Surfing (Courtesy: Google)

Duke was able to leverage the fame he gained as a decorated Olympic swimmer to bring an increased international awareness to the sport of surfing. He lived in Southern California for many years and while there he appeared in several films, giving him the opportunity to make more connections and spread the word about surfing.

In addition to swimming, surfing, and playing water polo, Duke was also an actor, sheriff and beach volleyball player.


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An absolute swimming legend. Nearly took the 100m freestyle under the 1 minute mark, and was absolutely unchallenged in the world for his time and day. I imagine he would have been an easy winner for the 50 m free if it was contested at that time as well. A true waterman.


He very well ought to have been the first man to 3-peat, and would have if but only for World War I taking away the 1916 Olympics. As is, he was very close to 3-peating already, except for Weissmuller in 1924. Interestingly Kahanamoku was 30 when he defended his Olympic gold medal, and 34 when he won silver behind Weissmuller. Some time between the roaring 20’s and the 70’s and 80’s, people decided that 28 was “old” for a swimmer. Today we see swimmers swimming personal bests at 30 (Cseh, for example) and think of it as a new, continuing development. I see an argument that swimmers swimming fast and even improving in their late 20’s and even early 30’s… Read more »


A true ocean swimmer too. I don’t imagine he saw a lot of regulation pools growing up in turn of the century Hawaii. Imagine if he had any formal training or coaching by today’s standards.

About Alesha Breckon

Alesha Breckon

Alesha (Olesen) Breckon began her swimming career when her parents put a pool in the back yard. They enrolled Alesha and her brother in the local summer league in an effort to make sure they were "water safe." At the end of the summer, she joined Blue Tide Aquatics in …

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