Duke’s OceanFest is one of the many events that is held every summer in Waikiki throughout the year. But make no mistake, it is certainly worth not missing. OceanFest is host to various events such as the Menehune surfing competitions, the AccesSurf competitions, amateur longboarding, beach volleyball, and more. The events are based around the favorite activities of local legend Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, which included surfing, paddle-board racing, swimming, and volleyball. While the festival is held, Duke’s statue is draped with beautiful leis in traditional Hawai’i fashion.
Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was a native Hawaiian and known as the world’s best waterman. He was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming. He broke the American 50-yard record as well as the 100-yard world record. He was an avid surfer and founded the Hui Nalu Club in 1908. After his Olympic swimming career, he moved to California where he acted in several films and helped to popularize surfing. He also acted as a lifeguard and in 1925, saved eight fishermen from rough waters with the use of his surfboard in Newport Beach, California after their boat had capsized. After the rescue, U.S. lifeguards began using surfboards in their rescues around the country. After his death, his ashes were scattered in the ocean at Waikiki Beach and in 1990, a 9-feet bronze statue was erected in his honor.
Duke’s OceanFest revolves much around surfing, an activity heavily rooted in Hawai’i culture. During the early 1900’s, most people around the country and the world were not familiar with the now famous sport. Surfing was primarily popular only to Hawai’i, but with the help of Duke Kahanamoku this changed. After his Olympic career, Duke spent time traveling around the world until settling in California. During his travels, he advocated the appeal of surfing and helped introduce many people to the sport. He also used his Hollywood connections to help further his mission to popularize surfing. Thanks to his efforts, surfing has become one of the biggest sports in the world and the competitions held at OceanFest in honor of Duke’s achievements are only a small fraction of the events held year-round.
The Menehune surf fest is a host of competitions for girls and boys aged 6-9 for short and long board surfing. It is a wonderful way to get the keiki actively involved with the community. There are five events held total: two for short board surfing and two for long board surfing. The fifth event is just a friendly gathering for kids to learn to surf and have fun. For this last event, children ages 3-9 are welcome. Duke OceanFest is also home to the AccesSurf adaptive surf competition, which welcomes all disabled athletes to compete in a two-day surfing competition. Athletes from over 15 different countries come to compete in the competition to win the prestigious Nalu Award. It is absolutely amazing to see these athletes in action, as they surf waves in the beautiful waters of Waikiki. AccesSurf is a non-profit organization here in Hawai’i that hosts various events in addition to the annual adaptive surf competition. They rely heavily on volunteers and donations, so if you are interested, perhaps consider getting involved here.
Other than surfing competitions, Duke’s OceanFest also hosts a variety of events for the public. There’s beach volleyball that comprises of two-person adult team competitions. There are several ceremonies held such as the lei decorating of Duke’s statue and the Hawai’i Waterman Hall of Fame that honors several watermen every year for their contributions and achievements to Hawai’i's waterman legacy. A mile ocean sprint is held along Waikiki coast, that swimmers from all over the country come to compete in. A luau is held at the Waikiki Aquarium that hosts delicious local foods and music. A few movies are shown on Waikiki Beach, in a drive-in theater fashion that’s fun for the whole family. And there’s even water polo, played while on surfboards.
Altogether Duke’s OceanFest is a massive event that spans several days and is host to numerous events and parties. It is a great way to pay respect to our ocean, athletes, and culture. Surfing is rooted into Hawai’i culture and what better way to celebrate that, than hosting all types of surfing competitions for not only locals to enjoy, but other fellow surfers from around the world.