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THE BIG KAHUNA Duane DeSoto stands in for five-time Olympic medalist and surfing pioneer Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, in Waterman, a biography about the Hawaiian legend streaming on PBS. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MISCELLANEOUS ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Miscellaneous Entertainment
  • THE BIG KAHUNA Duane DeSoto stands in for five-time Olympic medalist and surfing pioneer Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, in Waterman, a biography about the Hawaiian legend streaming on PBS.

What's it rated? Not rated

When? 2021

Where's it showing? PBS

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Isaac Halasima (The Last Descent) directs this documentary about Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, a five-time Olympic medalist and native Hawaiian who's credited with introducing surfing to the world. The film uses archival materials and reenactments with Duane DeSoto starring as Duke, as well as interviews with surfing legends Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, and Fred Hemmings. Jason Momoa narrates.

I was familiar with the broad strokes of Duke Kahanamoku's life story, but what I didn't know about was all the racism he faced and the sort of dignity and grace he mustered in the face of it. The man was a hero who saved lives as a lifeguard and who broke swimming records that the Amateur Athletic Union refused to acknowledge until years later.

He introduced surfing to both California and Australia, indelibly changing their cultures and images. What really comes through is Duke's aloha spirit—a positivity that kept him fulfilled through adversity. He was a great man not because of his amazing athletic achievements and heroism but because of his character, humility, and kindness. This documentary is a fitting tribute to a person who should not be forgotten. (88 min.) Δ

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