Aloha! From Thursday 11 to Saturday 13 January, Hawaiian Tourism Oceania are hosting Duke’s Day 2024, a seaside festival in Freshwater to celebrate the achievements of legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku and his Polynesian culture.
It kicks off with a launch party Thursday night with co-sponsor Freshwater Brewery, and continues into a picnic, clean up, and a series of hosted yarn sessions over the following days.
Duke famously popularised surfing in Australia and New Zealand with athletic longboard demonstrations during the summer of 1914-15, when the sport was in its infancy in Australasia.
He gave two surfing demonstrations at Freshwater Beach on Christmas Eve of 1914 and 10 January 1915, attracting large crowds, to which he enjoyed showing off his phenomenal board riding technique and assorted tricks.
The 24-year-old Duke cemented his legendary status when he encouraged local surfer Isabel Letham to join him in the water on his eight foot six inches (262cm) long surfboard (which he’d commissioned carpenters in Glebe to shape from a piece of sugar pine).
Not only did they ride side-by-side in tandem, followed by her sat upon his shoulders, whilst descending a wave the 186cm tall Hawaiian gold medal-winning swimmer suddenly lifted 15-year-old Isabel high into the air on his outstretched arm!
Duke’s original board, weighing a hefty 40kg, is preserved in a glass case on display at Freshwater Surf Lifesaving Club.
The forthcoming Duke’s Day activities include two screenings of the biographical film Waterman, documenting Duke’s many aquatic achievements (see the trailer here; free tickets available here), plus surfing demonstrations, a beach picnic and an Aloha Cocktail Party at Freshwater Brewery on Thursday 11 January from 6pm (free tickets here).
Among the attractions will be ‘yarning’ sessions – the sharing of stories and information – hosted by four speakers that cover topics ranging from Sydney’s sharks and rays, the Gamay Rangers, the aforementioned female surf pioneer Isabel Letham, and Duke Kahanamoku.
The latter will be presented by native Hawaiian actor and storyteller Moses Goods.
Anna Riedel, PR Executive of Hawaiian Tourism Oceania, told Manly Observer, “Moses Goods will be there on the opening night on Thursday as well as the following days. He’ll host a yarning session on Saturday, 13 January, all about Duke and Hawaiian culture too (around 11am).”
The yarning sessions, four in total, start at 10am on Saturday 13 January, and take place in the Freshwater Room at Freshwater SLSC.
Anna continued, “Moses is a descendant of the Piʻilani lineage of Maui, he travels nationally and abroad performing his original work and sharing stories of Hawaiʻi with a wide range of audiences. His vast body of work includes his one-man show DUKE, based on the life of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, which he has performed in New York, Minneapolis, Connecticut and throughout the Hawaiian islands.
“Moses is also a television actor and can currently be seen guest starring in the role of Wally Holman on the hit CBS series NCIS Hawai’i. Later this year Moses will also appear in Chief of War, a new series for Apple TV created by and starring Jason Momoa.”
In June 2022, NSW Heritage announced they would commemorate Duke Kahanamoku with one of 21 new blue plaques – a memorial for high achievers and distinguished people – which are attached to buildings and sites associated with the individual.
Duke’s plaque, on the exterior wall of Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club, was unveiled on 17 October 2023 by then-NSW Environment Minister and current Member for Manly, James Griffin.
Schedule for Duke’s Day 2024
NSW Heritage blue plaque for Duke Kahanamoku:
Waterman film website: https://watermanthemovie.com/
Actor Moses Goods on IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1727311/
Manly Observer‘s previous articles on Duke Kahanamoku: