What It Means to Be American
On the morning of June 14, 1925, Duke Kahanamoku was camping out on the beach in the seaside village of Corona del Mar, about 50 miles south of Los Angeles, getting ready to do some surfing with friends, when he noticed a fishing boat named The Thelma heading out to sea.
Kahanamoku was at a crossroads in his life. He was about to turn 35 years old and his days of winning Olympic gold medals for swimming were over. He’d moved to Southern California to become a movie star, but instead had only landed roles as an extra, playing Moor pirates, Indian chiefs, and South Seas tribesmen.
It was a sobering comedown for an extraordinary athlete who, while less remembered today, was considered to be both the Michael Phelps and the Jackie Robinson of his era.
His American journey, a story well known ...