125 Years of the Duke

Raise a glass to Duke Kahanamoku, born 125 years ago today

If you’ve visited Google this morning, and of course you did, it’s the world’s most popular piece of digital real estate, you probably, hopefully, noticed Duke Kahanamoku’s handsome face smiling back at you in today’s “Google Doodle.” Duke, the most famous—and by leaps and bounds the most important—surfer in history was born 125 years ago today. No matter where in the world you live, if you’re a surfer today, tip your cap to Duke, for he has touched your life in the profoundest way. Nobody did more to rekindle the Hawaiian love affair with surfing than Duke. Nobody did more to spread the gospel of surfing worldwide than Duke. And nobody did either with anything approaching Duke’s grace and class.

Kahanamoku was a skilled wave-rider, but his real gift to surfing was the way he presented the sport as something that could be practiced with grace, humor, and generosity. “You know,” he said in 1965, “there are so many waves coming in all the time, you don’t have to worry about that. Take your time—wave come. Let the other guys go; catch another one.” The sport’s greatest shortcoming may be that surfers have for the most part failed to live up to the Kahanamoku ideal.

— Matt Warshaw, from The Encyclopedia of Surfing

Pry free a few minutes of your time today to peruse the rest of Duke’s EOS entry here.