In Hawaii, we greet friends, loved ones or strangers with aloha, which means with love. Aloha is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality, which makes Hawaii renowned as the worlds center of understanding and fellowship. Try meeting or leaving people with aloha. Youll be surprised by their reaction. I believe it and it is my creed. Aloha to you.
D U K E K A H A N A M O K U
ambassador of aloha
Dedicated to Duke
The Duke earns his stamp in history
By Craig Gima
If a teammate had not woken him up from a pre-race nap before the 100-meter freestyle in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku might not be on a stamp today. A last-minute dash to the swimming stadium and pleas to officials to delay the race until Kahanamoku could get into his swimsuit succeeded, and he won the gold medal the first of six Olympic medals and the hearts of fans.
But while the Olympics brought Kahanamoku fame, it was something else an inner character that made him larger than life, people who knew him say. Waikiki beachboy and champion surfer Rabbit Kekai says when Kahanamoku would take off on a wave, everyone in the water would stop to watch. "That's like total respect."
Kahanamoku took Kekai under his wing and taught him the finer points of surfing, canoe paddling and life.
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Duke dressed in a Hui Nalu tank top. He formed the surfing, swimming and paddling club in 1911. It still exists today.
"He told me, 'Never turn your back on anybody that comes out to greet you,'" Kekai said. "'You want them to walk away with a smile.' ... He said, 'Spread the aloha.'"
While traveling in swimming exhibitions after his Olympic triumphs, Kahanamoku introduced surfing to the world and promoted an image of Hawaii that helped build the then-fledgling tourist industry.
"In the religious world, he'd be considered the Abraham or Moses of surfing. In a political sense, George Washington or Kamehameha. He's the father of the sport," said Fred Hemmings, surfer, surf historian and state senator, who researched the story of how Kahanamoku rode the longest wave ever ridden in Waikiki, in 1917.
"It's a true legend. It's as true as legends can be," Hemmings said.
Kahanamoku was at a surf spot off Diamond Head that only breaks on really big days. The spot is called Steamer Lane because the ships pass by or Blue Birds because it's where the nearshore water changes color to the deep blue of the ocean.
Kahanamoku caught the huge wave, rode it for more than a mile past the area where the Natatorium is now, through Public's and Queen's, and came ashore somewhere on Waikiki Beach, perhaps as far Ewa as the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
Filmmaker Edgy Lee, who researched Kahanamoku's life as part of her documentary "Waikiki in the Wake of Dreams," was impressed by Kahanamoku's humility.
"He never wanted credit, never wanted attention," she said, even in 1925, when he saw a boat overturn in rough surf off of Corona Del Mar, Calif., and he used his surfboard to save eight men. "He goes out and rescues how many lives eight people and feels terrible that he couldn't save more."
Entertainer Don Ho remembers meeting Duke Kahanamoku in 1962 after he turned down promoter and restaurant owner Kimo McVay's offer to play at Duke Kahanamoku's in Waikiki.
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The stamp is based on the photo of Kahanamoku standing, dated 1918.
Click to view and print postcard size [180k]
McVay brought Kahanamoku into Ho's show at Honey's the next night. "Us kids had so much aloha and respect for the Duke. He gave me a kiss right on the mouth with his big wet lips," Ho said. "He said, 'Son, come play for me at my restaurant.' I could not refuse him, so I said, 'OK.'
"How can you say no?"
Kahanamoku also broke down color barriers for athletes and others. Among his teammates in the 1912 Olympics was American Indian Jim Thorpe, who dominated track and field.
During his travels he was sometimes refused service in restaurants, clubs and hotels.
The late Laura Guerrero, whose husband, Joe, traveled with Kahanamoku to swimming exhibitions, told a story to her son Hugh and to Lee of how Kahanamoku was late for an exhibition at a Los Angeles private club.
"He (my father) was waiting, waiting, because he was inside the club and there was Duke outside, and security wouldn't let him in because they thought he was black," Hugh Guerrero said.
"He was such a pure soul," Hemmings said. "He would interpret it (prejudice) like, 'How sad I am you feel that way.' He would generally feel sorry for the person."
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