On Kuhio Beach, a bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku welcomes you to Waikiki with open arms. Duke was a true Hawaiian hero and one of the world’s greatest watermen, a master of swimming, surfing and outrigger canoe paddling. Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was born on August 24, 1890. He grew up swimming and surfing in Waikiki near the current Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. Discovered as a swimming sensation, Duke’s legend began when he broke the world record in the 100-yard freestyle during his very first competition. The prodigious Duke went on to win Olympic gold in the 100-meter freestyle and silver in the relay in 1912. He also won two gold medals in 1920 and won a silver medal at age 34 in the 1924 Olympics. Duke was also one of the pioneers of the Waikiki Beach Boys, watermen who earned their livings teaching visitors how to surf and canoe at Waikiki Beach. If you look, you can still find real Waikiki Beach Boys showing visitors a great time in the Waikiki surf today. The amiable Duke also acted in Hollywood and used his fame to spread the popularity of surfing to the U.S. mainland and Australia. Later, he was elected Sheriff and official greeter of the city and county of Honolulu and was the first person to be inducted into both the Surfing Hall of Fame and the Swimming Hall of Fame. Duke Kahanamoku, “The father of modern surfing,” was Hawaii’s first ambassador of goodwill. He was instrumental in helping to spread the sport of surfing and the spirit of aloha around the world.
Built in 1942 by the U.S. Navy as the site for a VFL antenna, 3,992 wooden steps were constructed to hoist the equipment into place. In 1955 a metal ladder was installed for better access to the antenna. In 1957 the antenna was decommissioned and in 1971 the site was turned over the U.S. Coast Guard. Thousands of hikers have made the arduous journey to the top for the fantastic view of both sides of the island. However, on September 20, 1997 the Stairway was closed due to vandalism and costs to maintain the safety of the trail. Since then, the stairs have been reconstructed and opened back up to the public.
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