The Duke’s Legacy

The integrity of the legendary Duke Kahanamoku lives on through this empowering foundation.

What would duke do? if the volunteer board of the outrigger duke kahanamoku Foundation had a mantra, this would be it.

The Hawai’i legend’s principles guides their decisions in transforming the lives of local high school students and sports teams through its grant program and honoring his athletic achievements with its annual OceanFest and Hawai’i Waterman Hall of Fame events.

The foundation formed in April 1982, melding the former Outrigger Canoe Club Foundation and the Duke Kahanamoku Foundation. ° e revamped organization married the history of the storied 106-year-old canoe club with the legacy of Duke Kahanamoku, who himself resided in Waikiki and remains the club’s most famous member. Duke Kahanamoku passed away in 1968, but his impact in the islands thrives. Kama’aina and visitors alike can list his hallmarks: an Olympic athlete, a Hollywood star with a humble attitude, the father of modern surfing, the Ambassador of Aloha. It is his character and charming personality that the foundation strives to embody as an organization, says president Bill Pratt. In fact, Duke’s personal creed is emblazoned on the back of the foundation’s business cards, reading:

In Hawai’i, we greet friends, loved ones and strangers with aloha, which means “with love.” Aloha is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality, which makes Hawai’i renowned as the world’s center of understanding and fellowship.

Try meeting or leaving people with Aloha. You’ll be surprised by their reaction.

I believe it and it is my creed.

Aloha to you.

One way the Olympic athlete’s essence endures is through competition. In 2001, the foundation debuted OceanFest, a nine-day event each August, the month of Duke’s birthday. The free, all-ages festival features traditional ocean sports including surfing, stand-up paddling and canoe regattas, and the avant-garde, such as tandem surfing and surf polo-a polo match on surfboards.

OceanFest draws in hundreds of competitors and spectators and is held at Queen’s Surf, Duke’s old stomping grounds. “It’s a major extension of what the foundation is all about,” says Pratt, “providing a sporting event to celebrate and honor who Duke was.”

To further pay homage to one of Hawai’i’s greatest athletes, the foundation established the Hawai’i Waterman Hall of Fame, in which top professionals are recognized. It doesn’t only honor athletic prowess, explains Pratt. “We’re looking for those that have transformed the sport they compete in and [given] back to their community.” It all goes back to the great Duke Kahanamoku, who was not only a stellar athlete, but perpetuated the Hawaiian language, served as Honolulu’s sheriff and was one of Hawai’i’s most prominent representatives of the aloha spirit. Duke was one of the first inductees. Pratt cites 2012-inductee, Brian Keaulana, for his Duke-like qualities: Keaulana is an elite surfer and is largely credited for Jet Ski, life-guarding rescues, transforming the water safety industry. “If there ever was a reincarnation of the Duke, Brian Keaulana is one of those offspring,” he says. Other inductees include Nainoa Thompson of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, surfing legend Rell Sunn and the renowned surfer and lifeguard Eddie Aikau. The fifth-annual hall of fame is in August.

While OceanFest and the Hall of Fame are the foundation’s public faces, its purpose is providing financial assistance for the college education of Hawai’i’s students and helping local athletes compete. Enter the foundation’s generous scholarships and grants. Both teams and individuals can apply for sports grants; they’re given to canoeing, swimming, surfing, kayaking, water polo and volleyball athletes. Through its grants, the foundation also supports events such as the Macfarlane Regatta on July 4.

Pratt becomes most animated when discussing the education scholarships. The foundation is a vehicle that allows us the opportunity to provide financial assistance to many of Hawai’i’s keiki who live that spirit of aloha,” he says. This past year, 48 students from both public and private schools were awarded scholarships ranging from $845 to $2,700 to fund their college education.

The foundation has given $2 million in grants since its inception, with the help of individual and corporate donors, including Title Guaranty, Malama Pono and more. Pratt says this year’s goal is to award athletes and students with $165,000 in grants.

Out of each crop of student scholarship recipients, the board chooses one to become that year’s ambassador of aloha. With that comes a $10,000 scholarship. “This is an extremely rewarding process to interview these applicants, at the same time it’s extremely difficult to select just one winner,” says Pratt.

The 2013 ambassador is Kaiser High School graduate, Kira Fox. “Growing up in Hawai’i, we all know that Duke is someone special to Hawai’i history, not just for surfing, but his legacy. It’s such an honor and a proud accomplishment,” she says. Fox is a freshman at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where she plans to major in nutrition. She’s also competes with the Wahine swim team, joining her teammates for nine practices every week. Fox says she’s going to use her scholarship money to study abroad. “College is very expensive, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to,” says the 19-year-old. “But with the Duke scholarship, I can now go travel and experience another country.” She says she’s already researching European countries.

Pratt says it’s people like Fox, his fellow board members and donors that make his job worthwhile. “The [foundation] speaks to the lifestyle that I grew up with,” he says. “I believe in the Duke’s creed.”

For more information on the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation (OKDF), its events and its grants, or to make a donation, visit

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