Images portraying the Duke Kahanamoku legacy include his statue on the beach and a portrait.

“Teamwork, Tone, Tenacity™” (T3) Leadership with Aloha: The Duke Kahanamoku Legacy

“Duke” Kahanamoku passed away on this date in 1968, along with King Kamehameha, perhaps two of the most famous Hawaiians ever. Duke was a competitive swimmer who popularized the sport of surfing. He was a five-time Olympian in swimming, winning medals in 1912, 1920, and 1924. As a testament to his iconic stature, the Duke Kahanamoku legacy was honored with a 2002 U.S. Postage Stamp!  

Duke’s inspirational style: 

  • TEAMWORK: At the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, he won an individual Gold in the 100-meter freestyle and a Silver in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay. During the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, he won Gold Medals in both the 100 meters and in the relay. He finished the 100 meters with a Silver Medal during the 1924 Olympics in Paris; the Gold going to Johnny Weissmuller (later to become cinema’s most famous “Tarzan”). By age 34, Kahanamoku won no more Olympic medals but served as an alternate for the U.S. water polo team at the 1932 Olympics. He was elected Sheriff of Honolulu from 1932 to 1961, completing 13 consecutive terms. During World War II, he also served as a Military Police officer for the U.S. when Hawaii was still a Territory. He was a Freemason and a Shriner. Before I lived in Hawaii as a Naval Officer and experienced firsthand his impact on local culture, I saw Duke play the role of a Pacific Island Chief in the great 1955 film Mr. Roberts with Henry Fonda and James Cagney. 
  • TONE: Duke embodied the spirit of Aloha. His ashes were dispersed into the Waikiki surf, and a bronze statue was erected in his memory at Kuhio Beach in Honolulu. The statue welcomes all with open arms, and it is one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii. “It was in 1925 when I accidentally introduced another kind of surfing [lifesaving] to California. Good sometimes comes from the worst of tragedies. Boards became standard equipment on the emergency rescue trucks as well as at the towers.”
  • TENACITY: Duke was the first to be inducted into both the Swimming Hall of Fame AND the Surfing Hall of Fame! He’s also a U.S. Olympic Hall of Famer!  

Duke broke barriers of segregation and racism that Pacific Islanders faced in sports. He lived through Monarchy, Provisional Republic, Republic, Territory, Martial Law, and Statehood. He amazingly survived brain surgery and even danced Hula with England’s Queen Mother! He lived 77 full years, and his legacy of leadership, sportsmanship, and Spirit of Aloha continues to motivate today. May his memory be a blessing! 🙏🏄🤙  

– Rear Admiral Paul Becker, USN (Ret) is a motivational and national security keynote speaker. He is a leadership professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and the CEO of The Becker T3 Group. In 2016, The Naval Intelligence Community established “The Rear Admiral Becker ‘Teamwork, Tone, Tenacity™’ Award for Leadership” in his honor. To connect with Paul, visit his website:

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