JUNE 14, 1925


Kahanamoku and other surfers noticed the 40-foot yacht Thelma in trouble trying to enter Newport Harbor at Corona del Mar, California.  Going through heavy breakers, she capsized.  Of 17 aboard, 12 were rescued.  Witnesses said Kahanamoku was first to reach the scene and he is credited with saving eight.  Then-Newport Beach Police Chief Jim Porter said, “Kahanamoku’s performance was the most superhuman rescue act . . . Many more would have drowned but for the quick work of the Hawaiian swimmer.”  Kahanamoku, who had won countless surfing trophies and five Olympic medals in swimming (three gold, two silver, one bronze) between 1912 and 1922, received international acclaim for his heroics at the tragedy, and was given the nicknames “The Great American Hero” and “The Great Human Fish.”  Kahanamoku, who served as sheriff of Honolulu for 12 years and married, for the first time, at the age of 40, succumbed to a heart attack in Honolulu at the age of 77 on January 22, 1968. 

Source:  David C. Henley, “Duke Kahanamoku: The heroic moment that became part of his legend,” Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2015.  Retrieved 7/3/2019, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-duke-kahanamoku-surfer-20150824-story.html 
Photo:  Author unknown.  Date:  Circa 1912.  Public Domain in U.S.:  Pre 1/1/1925.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 70 years or less.

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