13th Annual Duke's Oceanfest Opens

The 13th annual Duke's Oceanfest opens, celebrating the great Duke Kahanamoku's life, accomplishments, and spirit. People from around the globe gather in Waikiki to watch and compete in various water sports.

September 1, 2021

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Surf’s up!

Beginning this Saturday, Aug. 16, hundreds of ocean sports aficionados will speckle the waves and shorelines of Waikikiʻs beaches to celebrate the birth-week of Duke Kahanamoku, the famed Hawaiian waterman and Olympian known to many as “the father of surfing.”

Organized by the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation (ODKF), the 13th annual Duke’s OceanFest celebrates the life and accomplishments of legendary Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku. From Aug. 16 through Aug. 24, competitors and spectators alike will gather at Waikikiʻs beaches for daily water sports competitions and exhibitions. The weeklong festivities will include tandem surfing, a one-mile swim race, a stand-up paddleboard showdown, longboard surfing, a canoe regatta in honor of U.S. armed forces and Wounded Warriors and more. And all of it will be visible from Waikikiʻs beaches if you just want to watch from the shoreline.

For a detailed schedule of Dukeʻs OceanFest events, click here.

Born in 1890, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku spent his early years on his traditional koa longboard in the breaking waves off of Waikiki. At age 22, he joined the U.S. Olympic swimming team and went on to win five Olympic medals in competition, three of which were gold. Kahanamoku’s accomplishments were not solely limited to surfing and swimming: he was also a lifeguard, an actor, a Honolulu sheriff and, according to ODKF, the “father of international surfing.” Despite his impressive accomplishments, Kahanamoku was a humble man who embodied the aloha spirit. He is remembered statewide as Hawaii’s “ambassador of Aloha” for the gracious hospitality he showed to visitors and residents alike.

Duke Kahanamoku in his youth.

Duke’s OceanFest kicks off its weeklong celebration of Hawaii ocean sports and its namesake waterman bright and early on Sat., Aug. 16, with the Duke Kahanamoku Menehune Surf Fest, featuring the youngest generation of surfers in daylong short- and longboard competitions. In the late afternoon, there will be a lei procession and draping of the iconic Duke Kahanamoku statue fronting Waikikiʻs Kuhio Beach. At the annual lei draping, colorful, fragrant pua (flowers) are placed on Kahanamokuʻs statue to honor his birthday.

On Aug. 21, Duke’s OceanFest organizers ODKF will hold their annual Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame Awards Dinner at the Outrigger Canoe Club. The Waterman Hall of Fame pays tribute to individuals who have contributed considerable achievements to water sports. Past inductees include noted Hawaiian surfer and lifeguard Eddie Aikau, longtime Hokulea voyaging canoe navigator Nainoa Thompson, and Duke Kahanamoku himself.

The esteemed watermen and women being inducted at the 2014 Waterman Hall of Fame Dinner include famed Olympic swim coach George David “Dad” Center; Pipeline surf break lifeguard and world-renowned bodysurfer Mark Cunningham; championship surfer, kayaker and 1961 winner of the Makaha International Surfing Championship Anona Napoleon; Triple Crown of Surfing annual surf contest executive director Randy Rarick; and Hawaii-born Olympic swimmer and spearfish enthusiast Sonny Tanabe.

Up to 275 people compete in the Duke’s Waikiki ocean one-mile swim each year. Photo: Outrigger Hotels & Resorts

Early risers on Ocean Festʻs final day, Aug. 24, can celebrate the actual 124th anniversary of Kahanamoku’s birth with a sunrise lei draping ceremony at his Waikiki statue and full day of ocean sports competitions, bringing the fest full circle.

Duke’s Oceanfest is a benefit for the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, which supports athletic events and gives grants and scholarships to Hawaii student athletes participating in ocean sports and volleyball. For more information about ODKF and their beneficiaries, click here.

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