Welcome back to Huntington Beaches’ “Huntington For Fun”! This month we are featuring our very own Dukes of Huntington Beach. Duke’s brings aloha spirit and a bit of history to Huntington Beach, and its location atop the Huntington Beach Pier gives guests a view of the shoreline’s legendary surf!
Today, we are here, Lori Thompson, Stacey Kuhn-Mercer and Elena Zimina of Coldwell Banker Beachside, with restaurant manager Tracy Bertka. We are enjoying the ever so loved Poke Tacos, Coconut Shrimp, Chips and Guacamole and a Dukes Bloody Mary! The atmosphere at Dukes is so inviting… you can dress up or dress beachy due to its location. This beautiful restaurant is based around a humble swimmer named Kahanamolu that made surfing a legendary sport!
Kahanamoku easily qualified for the U.S. Olympic swimming team in 1912, breaking the record for the 200 meter freestyle in his trial heat for the 4×200 relay. He went on to win several gold, silver and bronze medals in the 100 meter freestyle.
Between Olympic competitions, and after retiring from the Olympics, Kahanamoku traveled internationally to give swimming exhibitions. It was during this period that he popularized the sport of surfing, previously known only in Hawaii, by incorporating surfing exhibitions into these visits as well. The board that Kahanamoku built from a piece of pine from a local hardware store is retained by the Freshwater Surf Club. There is a statue of Kahanamoku on the headland at Freshwater. He made surfing popular in mainland America first in 1912 while in Southern California.
During his time living in Southern California, Kahanamoku performed in Hollywood as a background actor and a character actor in several films. In this way, he made connections with people who could further publicize the sport of surfing. Kahanamoku was involved with the Los Angeles Athletic Club, acting as lifeguard and competing on both swimming and water polo teams.
While living in Newport Beach, California on June 14, 1925, Kahanamoku rescued eight men from a fishing vessel that capsized in heavy surf while attempting to enter the city’s harbor. 29 fishermen went into the water and 17 perished. Using his surfboard, he was able to make quick trips back and forth to shore to increase the number of sailors rescued. Two other surfers saved four more fishermen. Newport’s police chief at the time called Duke’s efforts “the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen!!”
In 1940, he married Nadine Alexander, who accompanied him when he traveled. Kahanamoku was the first person to be inducted into both the Swimming Hall of Fame and the Surfing Hall of Fame. The Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championships are named in his honor. He is a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. He served as sheriff of Honolulu, Hawaii from 1932 to 1961, serving 13 consecutive terms.
Kahanamoku’s name is also used by Duke’s Canoe Club & Barefoot Bar, a beachfront bar and restaurant in the Outrigger Waikiki On The Beach Hotel. There is a chain of restaurants named after him in California and Hawaii called Duke’s.
Kahanamoku died of a heart attack on January 22, 1968 at the age of 77. For his burial at sea a long motorcade of mourners, accompanied by a 30-man police escort, moved across town to
Waikiki Beach. Reverend Abraham Akaka, the pastor of Kawaiahao Church, performed the service. A group of beach boys sang Hawaiian songs, including “Aloha Oe”. His ashes were scattered into the ocean… Of course!
Dukes Restaurant of Huntington Beach has that same Aloha Spirit… Manager Tracy Bertka and General Manager Brett Barnes are responsible for organizing endless activities here in HB. Dukes gives back heavily to the community… one way is the Legacy of Aloha Fundraiser. 10% of the Legacy of Aloha purchases goes back to the city for Special Olympics. In 2014, proceeds went to Boys and Girls Club. The shirts are really cool too! As well as these fundraisers, Dukes gives back to the schools – donating each month to elementary and middle schools.
Upcoming is the Black and blue series. A Competition between UCI and Long Beach State as well as the famous Dukes Hula Pie eating contest during the mens basketball competition on January 8.
Dukes features fresh fruit cocktails. To go with that fun drink, ask for the crunchy and tangy coconut shrimp appetizer or the unbeatable Poki tacos for a fun Taco Tuesday treat! For entrées, their fresh fish is cooked in Cal-Asian sauces and come with simple sides such as rice and vegetables. There’s also a good steak menu, along with surf ‘n’ turf selections. Finish off your meal with the macadamia nut ice cream pie, which is so big it can be shared with the entire table! Locals and visitors alike come here for Sunday brunch to greet the sun while they enjoy a traditional buffet. Those who are really looking to chill can belly up to the Barefoot Bar and enjoy drinks and a casual menu featuring appetizers, burgers and uncomplicated mains.