When Paths Cross Among Hall Of Famers

When Paths Cross Among Hall Of Famers

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California. Photo above shows Duke KahanamokuBuster CrabbeStubby Kruger and Johnny Weissmuller in El Segundo, California.

The connections between swimmers of different generations is always wonderful to hear.

Keo Nakama, a dual inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame, introduced Harry Huffaker [see below] to Duke Kahanamoku, the famed surfer, five-time Olympic medalist, Hall of Famer and rival of Johnny Weissmuller. Huffaker says, “Duke and his wife Nadine were very helpful in helping recruit swimmers and paddlers for my first Molokai Channel crossing in 1967.”

75-year-old Dr. Harry Huffaker before his crossing attempt of the Molokai Channel in Hawaii. Photo by Mike Lewis.

Being a malahini, I was not acquainted with many water people when I first arrived in Hawaii [from Michigan],” recalled the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Famer Huffaker. “After passing the dental boards and getting my first office organized, I was on my way to the Ala Moana Building on my first day of work in January 1969 when I learned of Duke’s passing while in the elevator.

Buster Crabbe, a two-time Olympic medalist from Hawaii, went to Punahou School on Oahu. After his illustrious competitive swimming career, he ventured to Hollywood where he played Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers during his heyday in the 1930s. He was named as one of the Greatest Watermen in Open Water Swimming History.

Crabbe returned on occasion to Honolulu for cameo appearances and competed in a couple of masters swimming competitions. In 1971, Crabbe broke the world swimming record for the 60-64 masters swimming age group in the 400m freestyle. “I treasure a photo of Buster and my father chatting during one of our swim meets,” remembered Huffaker. “His daughter owns and runs the wonderful Turtleback Farm Inn on Orcas Island, the loveliest of the San Juan Islands in the state of Washington. It is a special experience to stay there.”

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Steven Munatones