Today would have been Duke Kahanamoku’s 125th birthday had the father of modern surfing been eternal. Born in 1890 in the Kingdom of Hawaii Duke went on to do some amazing things in his life.
As an Olympic swimmer he appeared in 3 straight Olympics (1912-1924) winning 3 Gold Medals and 2 Silver Medals, plus at the age of 42 he was an alternate on the 1932 US Water Polo Olympic team that won the Bronze Medal but as an alternate he did not receive a medal. In 1965 he was enshrined in the Swimming Hall of Fame and in 1984 he was enshrined in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
He used his popularity as an Olympic Swimmer to travel around the world and popularized the ancient tradition of surfing. Even though surfing has been around for 3,000 years in Polynesian and Hawaiian culture it almost disappeared in the 1820s when British law enforced locals to wear more clothing and to put limitations on “play” time. It did not return until 1905 when the Hui Nalu club revived the sport.
In June of 1925 while surfing with friends in Newport Beach a fishing boat went down in the heavy surf out of the 29 men on the boat Duke personally rescued 8 men. In the following 4 decades he went on to be the Sheriff of Honolulu, serving 13 consecutive terms, and he appeared in 20 television and movie roles. He died on January 22, 1968 of a heart attack at the age of 77 and he was buried at sea. He was first person to be enshrined in the Surfing Hall of Fame in 1966.
If that was not enough for one lifetime he has been immortalized as the Official Hawaii Greeter, the U.S. released a Duke Kahanamoku stamp in 2002, there is a statue of him at Waikiki Beach on Oahu with him standing with his arms open and another statue at New Brighton Beach in New Zealand depicting him surfing.
Do collectors have an opportunity to add Duke to their collection? Yes, but very few options and all of them are connected to swimming or the Olympics. The most common two are the 1983 Topps Greatest Olympians #20 and 1991 Impel U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame #20
More recently Topps included him in the 2006 Allen & Ginter release which offers a couple of options. There is the base card #320 plus the mini version, then there is the Black Border mini parallel plus one released for the Hawaii Trade Conference and let’s not forget the 2015 Buyback version.
You can go for the big with the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings #20
There are a couple of options out of Europe
There are some generic surfing cards where people claim the image is Duke but there is no listing for him and he is not mentioned on the card.
I am looking to add the 1933 Goudey Sport King and 1931 Garmann to my collection eventually, I don’t know if I would say they are White Whales or Gray Whales just yet but they are definitely whales. I would also like to add the 2006 A&G Hawaii Conference card eventually too, this one is probably the most reasonably priced card on my Kahanamoku want list. I hope someday Upper Deck can get him in to a Goodwin Champions release as a surfer.