October 23 - 29, 2022: Issue 559
Duke Kahanamoku Celebrated In Our Area's First Blue Plaque At Freshwater
January 2011 marked the inaugural Duke's Day celebration in Freshwater Beach, Australia. In 1914, Duke Kahanamoku accepted an invitation from Cecil Healy, a fellow Olympian, and friend, and travelled to Australia to compete in several swimming events. This trip turned into a three-month journey that would introduce Hawaiian surfing to locals and inspire the annual event called Duke’s Day.
Naomi Wilson and Naomi Donohue, aka the Surf Nomes, co-founded the first Duke’s Day on January 15th, 2011. The annual event includes a lei draping at Duke’s statue, water demonstrations, family activities, beach clean-ups, and more.
Duke's Day Re-enactment of Duke Kahanamoku visit and replica board, 2015. Photo L Johnson
Last week Freshwater SLSC became home to another tribute to Duke as our areas first Blue Plaque, one of 21 plaques across the state, was officially installed on Monday October 17th.
Arriving in Sydney in December 1914, news of his surfing skills soon appeared in local newspapers. On Christmas Eve, and then towards the end of the 1914-1915 Summer Season, he gave surfing displays at Freshwater and then Dee Why.
Reports from then tell us:
The marvellous Hawaiian, undisputed champion sprint distance swimmer of the world, some of whose natatorial feats are said to have astounded the fishes, as did the exploits of Pegoud, the French aviator, in the clouds, cause wonderment amongst the birds of the air. He is here seen performing one of his famous surfing accomplishments. This is not by any means his most daring achievement. Whilst dashing forward at an incredible speed, he stands on his head and does other things of an acrobatic description. Similar boards to the one he is shown using have been imported into Australia, but so far none of our surfing experts have been able to imitate his sensational deeds.
It is supposed, however, that the breakers that roll in on our shores are of a different formation, and not suitable for the purpose. All doubts on that subject would have been set at rest had Kahanamouku visited here this Summer, as was supposed to have been his intention. He has on several occasions expressed his willingness to come, but the time he originally offered to make the trip was regarded as inopportune by the officials of the Swimming Association who were carrying on the negotiations, and they fell through, owing to the date they suggested as a substitute clashing with the great water festival that is to be held at Honolulu on February 18 and 24 next. Visitors from all parts of the world have been known to go to Hawaii merely to witness Kahanamouku shoot the waves in the extraordinary fashion depicted above. DUKE KAHANAMOUKU (1913, December 14). Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930), p. 20 (SUNDAY TIMES GLOBE PICTORIAL). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article126315151
SWIMMING: Kahanamouku and 100 yards championship. KAHANAMOUKU AND SURF BOARD. by Cecil Healy.
Representatives of the Press were invited to witness a private exhibition of surf-board riding by Kahanamouku at Freshwater on Thursday. It was to have been held the previous day, but the intention accidentally became public property and as several thousand people were attracted to the vicinity, Association officials decided to postpone it. Business considerations, unfortunately, prevented the writer from being present. Freshwater enjoys the reputation of being, on the whole, the best beach for shootable breakers, but the conditions, I understand, were far from being ideal for the purpose on that particular day.
The waves, for instance, were breaking too close to the shore to permit of a good 'run' being obtained, and, moreover, were of the 'dumping' variety; also the board itself, which was made locally, was not exactly what was required. It weighed in the neighbourhood of 100lb, whereas those in use at Honolulu, are only a quarter that weight. However, despite the disadvantages mentioned the Duke succeeded in assuming the perpendicular, and negotiating several shoots in his familiar poster attitude. On one occasion, whilst laying flat on the board, with a deft movement he swung the board right about, and proceeded backwards for a while before repeating the action and facing shorewards again. A number of our leading surfers were spectators of the display, and from what I can gather the general impression amongst them was that he did wonderfully well under the circumstances, but they were sure it merely amounted to an indication of what he is capable of doing under more favourable conditions. They have no doubt that when he has had opportunities of adapting himself to the vagaries of our surf, and strikes a suitable day, he will be able to do things of a really sensational nature. The dextrous manner in which he handled the heavy board when taking it out through the breakers would appear to have greatly surprised the Sydney men.
Record entries have been received for the year's State championships. Two are to be decided at the initial carnival, which is to be held at the Domain Baths next Saturday afternoon lamely, the 100yds and 880yds. The Olympic champion, Duke Kahanamouku, and his brilliant travelling companion, George Cunha, are competing in the former event. It will be their first public appearance in competition. Incidentally, it will constitute the first occasion that an overseas champion has raced in Australia. The visitors will be opposed by the cream of the Commonwealth's sprint-distance swimmers. Australian record-holder Albert Barry will defend his title of 100yds champion of New South Wales W. Longworth, runner-up in both State and Australian 'hundred' championships last season, will also be one of those who will endeavor to achieve for this State the honour of checking the Hawaiian's triumphant march. SWIMMING : Kahanamouku in 100yds Championship : (1914, December 30). Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 - 1939), p. 16. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120278130
Duke Kahanamoku carrying his board up the beach at Freshwater. Photo by Frank Bell (1884-1923)
DEE WHY CARNIVAL. KAHANAMOKU AND HIS SURF BOARD.
D. P. Kahanamoku, the famous Hawaiian swimmer, gave an exhibition on the surf board at the Dee Why surf carnival on Saturday. The beach was lined with people, all anxious to obtain a good view. The various events were watched with interest, especially the performance of Kahanamoku. He came out with his surf board, plunged into the water and continued to swim out until those watching from the beach wondered when he would stop. After covering nearly half a mile, Kahanamoku turned and prepared for a roller, which came along a moment after ; he caught it, and as the wave carried him shorewards he performed all kinds of acrobatic feats on the board, and finally dived into the water as the roller broke. The crowd showed their appreciation in a very hearty manner. Kahanamoku remained in the surf for nearly an hour, and he was accompanied at intervals by Miss Letham, of Freshwater, and it was a rare sight to watch both swimmers on the surf board.
The various surf events under the control of the New South Wales Surf Bathing Association were well contested. An open-air concert at night concluded the day's sport. Details :—
Grand Parade of Clubs.—Dee Why, 1 ; North Steyne, 2.
Three-legged Race.—North Steyne, 1 ; Collaroy, 2.
Pennant Rescue and Resuscitation Competition.— Metropolitan Division, third round ; Bondi A, 57.77points, 1 ; Manly A, 57.47 points, 2 ; Coogee, 56.66points, 3 ; North Steyne, 52.03 points, 4.
Novice Surf Race.—A. V. Rein (Manly), 1 ; C. D. Bell (Manly), 2.
Tug-of-War.—Collaroy, A. L. Melrose, capt. ; C. Knight, J. Walton, A. Thew, J. Jack, J. Bloomfield, D. Scully), 1.
Beach Relay Race.—First heat : Collaroy, 1. Second heat : North Steyne, 1. Third heat : Coogee, 1. Final :Collaroy (L. Chinchen, T. V. Smith, A. Sheldon, L. Sheldon), 1 ; North Steyne (E. Goulding, G. Morgan,O. H. G. Merrett, C .Whitehead), 2.
Alarm Reel Race.—Manly (H. M. May, belt, O. Mater, H. Buhl, F. Bennett, D. West), 1 ; NorthSteyne (L. Hind, belt, F. Nicholls, B. McEwan, E. Goulding, N. Thompson), 2.
Cock Fight.—Balmoral ( J. Doudney, C. Walker), 1.Surf Brace Relay Race.—Manly (J. Brown and N. Smith), 1 ; North Steyne (C. Healy, L Solomon), andBondi (J. G. Brown and H. Fletcher), dead heat.
Novice Alarm Reel Race.—First heat : North Steyne,1 ; North Bondi, 2. Second heat : Coogee, 1. Thirdheat : Bondi, 1. Final : Coogee (J. Leary, H. Mason,H. McClure, R. Harret, M. Reubenstein), 1.
Wheelbarrow Race.—North Steyne (H. Nicholls, F. E. Nicholls), 1. DEE WHY CARNIVAL. (1915, February 8). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 13. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15549791
The first 3 Blue Plaques for our harbour city were installed on October 11th, celebrating some of the Sydney's most extraordinary historic figures.
Minister for Heritage James Griffin, and MP for Manly, said the May Gibbs, Brett Whiteley and Sir Edward Hallstrom Plaques were installed in Neutral Bay, Lavender Bay and Mosman.
"Every Australian remembers tales of gumnut babies and 'big bad Banksia men' from childhood, and May Gibbs shaped generations of children's responses to nature," Mr Griffin said.
"The May Gibbs Blue Plaque, which has been installed at Nutcote in Neutral Bay, celebrates her grand legacy as Australia's first full-time, professionally trained children's book author and illustrator, whose work continues to delight readers to this day.
"The Sir Edward Hallstrom Blue Plaque, installed at the entrance of Taronga Zoo, recognises a self-made entrepreneur and philanthropist who cared deeply about conservation and remains one of the Zoo's most generous private benefactors.
"The NSW Government's $5 million Blue Plaques program is a fantastic way of getting communities excited about and involved in their local heritage around the State."
Member for North Shore Felicity Wilson said the Brett Whiteley Blue Plaque, now installed at his home in Lavender Bay, is a must-see for visitors to Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden.
"Archibald-winning Brett Whiteley created some of his most famous works at his home and studio in Lavender Bay, inspired by views of Sydney Harbour," Ms Wilson said.
"These Blue Plaques celebrate and recognise the important contributions that Sir Edward Hallstrom, May Gibbs, and Brett Whiteley have made not only to our local community, but across NSW and Australia.
"We are incredibly fortunate to have such rich local heritage, and these Blue Plaques will ensure we are safeguarding our cultural heritage for future generations."
These are the third, fourth and fifth Blue Plaques ever to be installed in New South Wales. The first was the Caroline Chisholm Plaque in East Maitland. The second was the Nancy Bird Walton Plaque in Kew, Port Macquarie.
So far, 21 Blue Plaque recipients have been named, and the NSW public will be invited to nominate more noteworthy people, stories and events when a second round of nominations opens.
The Duke's Blue Plaque is the third tribute at Freshwater to the surfing great.
Duke Kahanamoku is also commemorated with a statue sculpted by Barry Donohoo, commissioned by Harbord Diggers and Warringah Council in 1994.
Duke Kahanamoku Park on the Northern Headland of Freshwater Beach became part of the Manly-Freshwater World Surfing Reserve on Saturday, March 10th 2012.
Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku (1890 – January 22, 1968) was a Hawaiian competition swimmer who popularized the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing. He was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming.
Duke won a gold medal in the 100 metres freestyle in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, and a silver with the relay team. During the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, he won gold medals both in the 100 meters, and in the relay. He finished the 100 meters with a silver medal during the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Between Olympic competitions, and after retiring from the Olympics, Kahanamoku traveled internationally, particularly Australia and the United States, to give swimming exhibitions. It was during this period that he popularized the sport of surfing, previously known only in Hawaii, by incorporating surfing exhibitions into these visits as well.
His surfing exhibition at Sydney`s Freshwater Beach on December 24th, 1914 is widely regarded as the most significant day in the development of surfing in Australia, although clearly people were trying to surf at Manly and Pittwater before he showed them how:
Tommy Walker Says— 'I Brought First Surfboard To Australia'
IN a letter to Harry M. Hay, Australia’s foremost swimming and, surf coach, Tommy Walker, one-time surfboard champion at Manly (N.S.W.), writes: 'I saw an article by you in 'The Referee' re surfboards, so enclose a photo of myself and surfboard taken in 1909 at Manly. This board I bought at Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, for two dollars, when I called there aboard the 'Poltolock.' I won my first surfboard shooting competition at Freshwater carnival back in 1911, and that wasn't yesterday. Regards.'
Walker was a well-known figure at Manly at the time he writes about. He figured in a couple of unusual, if not remarkable, incidents.
Time came when Tommy decided to catch a shark for the purpose of exhibiting it to the public at threepence a head. He brought three other lads into the enterprise and between them they raised the necessary capital to buy a hook and line and to hire a tent in which to install the monster of the deep. But first they 'had 'to catch their fish. They selected Fairy. Bower beach as their base and set a watch on the hill overlooking it. On the second day of their vigil, the required shark was sighted. Like a policeman on his beat, he came leisurely from the direction of South Steyne. And he was a Whopper, a tiger, 14ft 2in in length, as was proved later. He was duly landed struggling on the beach and a curious public had paid £12/10/to view him when the Council's inspector of nuisances intervened to the manifest relief of the residents in the vicinity. But one may ask, 'Where' does the hero stuff come in?' Well, it was this way. When the shark was sighted, the watchers on the. Hill signalled to Tommy (who was waiting on the' beach) and he immediately set out in a small dinghy to drop the bait at the spot it was anticipated the shark would cross. The craft capsized. So Tommy swam with the bait, a -7lb salmon, and literally spilt it into the shark's mouth. The shark grabbed it— and the rest was easy. Someone said, 'I ..wouldn't have done that for £10,000.' ..Tommy replied simply, .''There was no danger — when salmon are about, a shark has no time for anything else.'
IN the other incident Ivay Schilling was the heroine. She Will be recalled as J. C. Williamson's principal dancer. The company was having a successful season at the Theatre Royal. A strong swimmer, she was surfing at South Steyne one morning, when only two others were in the water. Walker was one of them. Miss Schilling had crossed a deep channel and was resting on a sandbank, and was watching Walker shooting. He could swim like a fish. This was at a time when large surfboards were unknown in Australian waters. However, Walker did not need any adventitious aids when shooting, at which he was one of the recognised adepts. It was impracticable, however, to shoot right into the sand because of the channel, which banked the surf up. After his third shoot, Walker appeared to be in sore trouble in the channel. His scream for help galvanised the dancing star into action. -With powerful strokes, swimming trudgeon style, she quickly covered the necessary 30 yards to reach the youth who was sinking for the third time. He appeared to 'be- in a fit- and struggled violently as the gallant lady swam with him to' the shore.
JUST at this moment the professional lifesaver, the late 'Appy Eyre, arrived and he worked on the unconscious form of Walker, who, when he came to his senses, ejaculated, ''Well, that is the last time I'll go surfing immediately after' a heavy' breakfast.' ?
The evening papers rang with the story, and the performance at the Royal was held up that night when Miss Schilling appeared on the stage. Members of the audience from all parts of the theatre rose and cheered, and cheered, and cheered again. And Tommy — what of him? Just about that time, a week beforehand, in fact, Claude Eric Ferguson McKay had been appointed to the position as Williamson's publicity man. 'Walker, if unwittingly, had brought one of Williamson's stars into the limelight— had given her the opportunity of appearing as a heroine in a drama off the stage. McKay was delighted. He presented Walker with a brand new £5 note. Tommy Walker Says—. (1939, February 23). Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 - 1939), p. 16. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127604199
And then along came Duke:
The board Kahanamoku used is retained by the Freshwater Surf Club and the club has been celebrating ever since - soon after Duke headed home:
Soon after boards began appearing everywhere.
Last week began with a surfing celebration for Manly MP James Griffin and closed with a surfing celebration as he hosted the Surfers Honoured In Oldest Room In Parliament: Midget Farrelly Lifetime Achievement Awards To Pam Burridge - Tom Carroll.
But this is what happens when you live within earshot of the breakers and salt air fills your every other breath and saltwater mixes with the blood moving through your frame.
The remainder of the Blue Plaques will be installed in yet to be announced locations in the coming weeks. To learn more, visit Blue Plaques NSW