The Bronzed Islander Shows How

Duke, Freshwater, 1914
Isabel Letham
Duke riding tandem
Duke, Freshwater, 1914
Tommy Walker, Yamba, 1912

“Surf-shooting” on a board wasn’t entirely new to Australia in 1914 when Duke Kahanamoku visited on his swimming tour, although misfires had been the rule up to that point. Years earlier, Pacific Island swimming marvel Alick Wickham had lugged an oversized piece of driftwood off the beach and carved it into a surfboard, which sank not long after Wickham’s first test run. Manly resident Charlie Paterson shipped a plank-style board back with him from Waikiki in 1912, but he had no luck riding i...

Duke patiently and pleasantly talked to the locals about wave-riding technique and showed them how to make their own boards. There were lessons in beachboy comportment—at a formal dinner, when asked to say a few words, Kahanamoku delighted the room by instead playing his ukulele and singing a Hawaiian song.