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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 25, 2002

Honoring the legacy of Duke Kahanamoku

A poster-size image of the Duke Kahanamoku stamp, veiled in red velvet, was escorted to shore aboard a double-hulled canoe with a flotilla of canoes, craft, boards and swimmers alongside. Hundreds gathered yesterday in Waikiki to celebrate a day of all things Duke.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

 •  Duke Paoa Kahanamoku — A lifetime of highlights

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

What would Hawai'i be without the surf? And what would surfing be without Duke Kahanamoku?

There can be no doubt that Duke — the man Surfer magazine anointed Surfer of the Century in 1999 — is bigger than life.

After a 9-foot statue of the legendary athlete was unveiled in Waikiki 12 years ago yesterday, many people weren't all that surprised by the 4-inch bronze plaque that read "Actual Size."

In truth, Duke was a mortal 6 feet 1, and the plaque referred to the 16-foot surfboard featured in the sculpture.

Yesterday, the 112th anniversary of Duke's birth, another bigger-than-life milestone was achieved: the unveiling of Duke's image on a 1-inch postage stamp.

The new 37-cent Duke Kahanamoku stamp was unveiled yesterday.
A 30-by-38-inch copy of the stamp arrived in Waikiki's Kalia Bay at 1:45 p.m. with a flotilla of canoes, the sound of conch shell blowers and a welcoming delegation aboard the Hawai'iloa voyaging vessel.

The Hawai'iloa was anchored about 250 yards off the beach, and the stamp, covered by a red velvet veil, was transferred to a double-hull canoe, which carried it to shore flanked by surfers.

The stamp was transported to a ceremonial tent on the beach that shaded a contingent of about 200 invited guests: elected officials, notables and numerous friends and relatives of Duke.

Hundreds more spectators, tourists and curious sunbathers gathered outside the tent. Most expressed pleasant surprise when representatives of the U.S. Postal service began handing out hundreds of free Duke First Day of Issue cancelled 37-cent stamp cards.

Earlier in the day, a steady stream of visitors and hotel guests stood in line for hours to pay for the cancelled First Day of Issue stamped envelopes at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tropics Café Showroom, which also had set up a temporary museum of Duke and Olympic memorabilia.

Stamp enthusiasts who braved the lines had the option of buying a stamped cancelled envelope for $5 or purchasing the stamps for 37 cents each, the envelopes for $2 apiece, attaching the stamps and then having them cancelled for free.

Alden Paoa, 37, Duke's grand nephew, who flew from Maui for the festivities, watched the Hawai'iloa's arrival with obvious pride.

"This is great," Paoa said. "It is long overdue. Duke taught surfing to the world."

Duke is shown on his 64th birthday, in 1954. The 112th anniversary of his birth was marked yesterday by the unveiling of his postage stamp.

Photo by Clarence Maki • Special to The Advertiser

The stamp was officially unveiled by Robert Rider, chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, who called Duke "a hero in every sense of the word."

The unveiling ceremonies were the focal point of a day-long Waikiki celebration of all things Duke that included traditional Hawaiian music and dance, swimming contests and an early evening lu'au.

Among those present was Carl Herrman of Carlsbad, Calif., the designer and art director for the stamp, which was created by New Orleans artist Michael Deas.

"My decision was to show him not just as a surfer but as a water man, representing the paddlers, swimmers and surfers," said Herrman. "The time was 1918. He was 28 years old. He had already won a gold and silver medal. He was in his prime. He never looked better."

The photographs that Herrman and Deas used for the stamp were furnished by the Bishop Museum. Museum archivist DeSoto Brown said that while the design incorporated a number of pictures taken of Duke, the main image came from a photo taken in 1918.

He said Duke, known as the Ambassador of Aloha, embraced the best ideals of Hawai'i so well that fiction writers could not have fashioned a more perfect character.

"Arguably, Duke is the most famous Hawaiian person who has ever been, in terms of him being 100 percent ethnically Hawaiian," Brown said. "And because he is a hero, because his fame is due to positive accomplishments, the image of him can't help but be a really good thing to represent Hawai'i and the Hawaiian culture."

While some present yesterday had known Duke, who died in 1968, the vast majority had not.

Larry Peterson of Tustin, Calif., had a measure of bragging rights.

"I met him once," Peterson said. "It was in 1964. I was living in Waikiki. He was at Duke's (restaurant) and greeted people at the door. He was the nicest guy, and he loved to shake people's hands.

"He said, 'I'm very pleased to meet you.' "

Peterson says he got the feeling the Duke meant it.

Conch shells sound as the new Duke stamp is unveiled by Robert Rider, left, chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service, and Jo-Anne Kahanamoku, niece of Duke Kahanamoku, at a beachside ceremony.

A 36-inch bronze statue greeted purchasers of the Duke Kahanamoku stamp on the first day of issue at the Tropics Showroom at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel. The sculpture, completed by R. Tait McKenzie and Joseph Brown in 1912, has been displayed in Hawai'i at the New Otani Hotel (1995), Honolulu Art Show (1972), and at the opening of the Hawaii International Surf Museum at the Outrigger (2002). A huge crowd follows as a poster-size replica of the Duke Kahanamoku stamp is carried from shore by Hokulea navigator Nainoa Thompson, left, and Jo-Anne Kahanamoku, Duke's niece, to be dedicated before family, friends, invited guests and curious onlookers.

About 150 swimmers take to the water for the Duke's Ocean Mile Swim, part of the Duke Paoa Kahana-moku Waterman Challenge held at Waikiki yesterday.