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Duke Kahanamoku may soon be on postage stamps

Duke Kahanamoku (1924): Photo Courtesy Star Bulletin

Surf legend may soon get stamp of approval

The Postal Service could honor
Duke Kahanamoku in 2002

The image of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku is one step away from gracing a 2002 commemorative stamp, U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka´s office confirmed yesterday.

People have been lobbying for a Duke stamp for years, but this is the first time the surfing icon´s image has made it this far in the process.

"The senator is delighted by the approval" of the Citizen´s Stamp Advisory Committee for a Kahanamoku stamp at its July meeting, said Paul Cardus, Akaka´s press secretary.

Stamps recommended by the committee must receive final approval from Postmaster General Don E. "Jack" Potter, which is expected in late September or early October, said U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan.

Brennan said she cannot confirm that the Kahanamoku stamp is on the list, which typically is kept a closely guarded secret. She did, however, say that she is not aware of postmasters in the past altering the recommendations of the committee.

Usually no more than 100,000 of a commemorative stamp design are made, Brennan said, compared to the billions of regular-issue stamps.

"I have to sit down," Sandra Kimberley Hall, co-author of "Memories of Duke: The Legend Comes to Life," said yesterday.

"It is so appropriate, because this is the day on which (Kahanamoku´s wife) Nadine left us to join Duke." (She died on July 17, 1997.)v

"Nadine worked 30 years to see Duke honored on a stamp; she said she wasn´t going to die until she saw him on a stamp. People all across the world wanted the Duke on a stamp ... because he was the ambassador of aloha and the most widely recognized Olympian and sportsman in the world."

Honolulu-born Kahanamoku (1890-1968) was 21 when he won the first of his four Olympic gold medals. He won worldwide fame as a swimmer and surfer, appeared in about 30 movies and was sheriff of Honolulu for 26 years. His statue on Waikiki Beach is a landmark, and he´s considered by many to be an embodiment of aloha.

"I think that´s wonderful," exclaimed Mary Ray Kahanamoku, who married Duke´s younger brother, Sergeant.

Her deceased husband "would be thrilled" with the honor and she recalled that her sister-in-law Nadine "worked very hard to get that going."

"How sweet it is," said Nadine Kotsch, founder of the International Surfing Museum.

The "father of surfing" is immortalized in the entrance foyer to the 13-year-old museum in Huntington Beach, Calif., and, she said, "We´ve been working many years (to get this stamp). That is so wonderful."

Bernie Baker, a writer and photographer for Surfing Magazine said it´s an overdue honor.

"He should have been on the stamp when it was only a dime," Baker said.

"I think myself and all surfers are probably proud as heck, and I´m sure the entire surfing and sports world as well. He was an athletic champion, an all-around athlete. When the stamps are ready for sale, Baker said, "I´ll trade in all my other stamps and get his."

"This is what grassroots is all about," said Darryl Hatheway, chairman of the Capitol Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, which employed the efforts of 25,000 members nationwide to write letters of support for the Kahanamoku stamp.

"You keep getting the message out, never surrender, and good things happen eventually. There´s nothing better that could happen than to commemorate Duke Kahanamoku."

Doug Rodman, vice chairman of the Oahu Surfrider chapter, recalled that when members sought signatures around the island supporting a Duke stamp, "nobody was against it."

"We couldn´t be happier" to hear the stamp is almost a reality, in the face of thousands of other suggestions, he said. "We´ll keep our fingers and toes crossed. I´m stoked."

Surfrider volunteer Don Gallagher, also of the Washington, D.C. area, said he is "thrilled that this is happening. ... Duke´s biography is an impressive page of history, but that´s not the reason he is remembered fondly today.

"It´s because his generosity was as big as the ocean he loved."

Reported by Diana Leone at Star Bulletin

Press - Surfersvillage


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