By Nancy Daniels
The annual Duke’s OceanFest is an end-of-summer tradition with hundreds of ocean athletes descending on Queen’s beach in the shadow of the statue of Hawai‘i’s greatest waterman – Duke Kahanamoku. Athletes from around the world come to compete in a wide array of ocean sports, including surfing, surf polo, ocean swimming, stand-up paddling, paddleboarding, and beach volleyball. Along with the athletes come thousands of fans who line the beach to enjoy the spectacle.
Outrigger has been a part of Duke’s OceanFest since it first began in 2002, and over the years, the festival has grown to become Waikīkī’s premier ocean sports festival celebrating the life and legacy of Duke Kahanamou, as well as the greatness of Hawai‘i’s most famous beach – Waikīkī!
This year, the spirit of Duke bridged the massive Pacific Ocean and brought two Mayors together to sign a goodwill agreement to celebrate and strengthen the historic ties between Australia and Hawai‘i. In was in 1915 at Freshwater Beach in Sydney that Duke introduced surfing and surfboard making to Australia. Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle and Australia’s Warringah Shire Mayor Michael Regan celebrated Duke’s memory and lifelong work of sharing the spirit of aloha and bringing people together in the name of surfing with the signing of the agreement. Appropriately, the signing was held on Duke Kahanamoku’s birthday – August 24 – also the first day of the festival’s ocean activities.
To celebrate the occasion, Mayor Carlisle and Mayor Regan hit the waves in true Duke-fashion for a private surf session with a small group of celebrated friends that included Outrigger’s Chuck Kelley, Triple Crown of Surfing’s Randy Rarick, former Duke Kahanamoku Surf Team members Fred Hemmings and Paul Strauch, and Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club representative Stephen Bennet.
Later in the afternoon, crowds gathered at the Duke Kahanamoku Statue for the Surf Board Lei Procession and Lei Draping, a tradition that was started by the staff of the Outrigger Waikiki in 2002. Throughout the day, beautiful lei were assembled at the Outrigger Waikiki, and at the designated time, were gently draped across surf boards and carried to the statue in a procession that included our own Ethan Chang of the Outrigger Waikiki, who is instrumental in coordinating this project and assisting with this very important duty.
As in years past, Outrigger had two teams competing in the Duke’s Legends Surf Classic held on Saturday, August 27. Dr. Chuck, who normally leads the men’s team, was traveling, so this year’s team included media friends and clients Hugh O’Reilly of FX Productions, Brian Berusch of Oahu Publications, local designer Sig Zane, and local radio personality and comedian Kaleo Pilanca, with Paul Strauch the men’s team’s legend. The women’s team was led by surf legend Becky Benson; and joining her were local blogger Catherine Toth of The Daily Dish, Jodi Wilmott of Ocean Promotion, surf reporter “Banzai” Betty Depolito and JoJo Howard.
Our men’s team was once again the ‘best dressed” on the beach and in the water with their Sig Zane designer boardshorts. And this year, applause-applause to our women’s team who had their best showing ever for a women’s team at OceanFest. The Outrigger wahine were actually 2nd overall after the first heat and were looking for a strong second heat. Unfortunately, it’s all about wave action, and the waves deserted the ladies during their second run, but they still finished at a very respectable 8th place.
Mahalo to everyone who helped make this year’s Duke’s OceanFest another amazing success!