Happy Birthday Duke! Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku (August 24, 1890 – January 22, 1968) was an American competition swimmer of ethnic Hawaiian background, who is widely credited with spreading the sport of surfing. He was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming. He was also an actor, lawman, early beach volleyball player, and businessman. Known as the Ambassador of Aloha, Kahanamoku traveled the world, bringing surfing to the likes of California, Australia and New Zealand over his lifetime. Aug. 24 marks what would’ve been Kahanamoku’s 125th birthday — he passed away in 1968. On his native Hawaii, Kahanamoku was known for much more than just riding waves. He first built his reputation as a swimming champion, winning five Olympic medals over the course of his career. His success also enabled him to raise the profile of Hawaii’s true passion of surfing. Kahanamoku was also elected the sheriff of his home county 13 times and starred in over a dozen movies. Most importantly, he is credited with helping the Hawaiian islands achieve statehood in 1959.