When Legacy Were Greater Back When

When Legacy Were Greater Back When

Duke Kahanamoku in 1967

When Legacy Were Greater Back When

Photo courtesy of John Titchen.

Duke Kahanamoku was one of the most celebrated watermen and aquatic celebrities in history. Kahanamoku, born in 1890, was a 5-time Olympic medalist in swimming, an actor, a lawman, an early beach volleyball player, a renowned lifeguard, and a businessman credited with spreading the sport of surfing.

He is member of the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame in the Class of 2002 and was inducted in the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in the Class of 1965.

At the 1912 Stockholm Olympics in Stockholm, he won a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle and a silver medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay. Even before he competed in the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games, he was celebrated the world over for his many exploits. Sometimes, the media went overboard in its descriptions.

On July 12th 1913, the Long Beach Press (now the Press-Telegram) reported one clearly bombastic marine encounter of Duke Kahanamoku.


As a result of a battle to the death with a ten-foot eel, the largest ever seen here. Duke Kahanamoku, who won the world’s championship at Stockholm, is today minus the index finger on his right hand and his swimming prowess may be permanently impaired.

The swimmer encountered the eel while practicing for the Australian swimming championships off here, and after a fight lasting several minutes, choked it to death. He was exhausted when he reached the shore, with the eel’s body in tow.

Note: he was later photographed with two index fingers [see above].

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Steven Munatones