Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku

By Ellie Crowe
Illustrated by Richard Waldrep

Paperback: $10.95

Six Pack: $65.70

Growing up in Honolulu with the Pacific Ocean as his backyard, Duke Kahanamoku learned to swim and surf at a young age. By his early twenties, Duke's lightning-fast swimming won him a place on the 1912 United States Olympic team and a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle race. Over the years Duke struggled with racism and financial troubles, but by the end of his twenty-year Olympic career, he was a six-time medal winner.

Although a swimming champion, Duke's passion was surfing. He traveled the world, introducing surfboarding to Australia and the east and west coasts of the United States. Considered the father of modern surfing, Duke spread his love of the ocean and Hawai’i wherever he went.

Throughout his life Duke Kahanamoku was beloved for his modesty, sportsmanship, and amazing skill in the water. Today he remains a legendary waterman and an inspiration to all to live life with aloha.

aloha: love, kindness, grace, affection, compassion; also traditional Hawaiian greeting or farewell

For further exploration of themes and connections, pair these field trip and activity ideas with Surfer of the Century.

About the Creators

Thumb_thumb Ellie Crowe - Author

has written several children's books, as well as guidebooks to Hawai'i. Crowe first heard of Duke Kahanamoku while living in Australia. Moving to Hawai'i, she found Duke was a hero there too. "He is a great role model and I wanted to introduce him to young readers today," says Crowe. She lives in Honolulu with her husband and their three children. Visit her online at

Thumb_thumb Richard Waldrep

is an award-winning illustrator who has created images for editorial, publishing, advertising, and corporate clients, including U.S. News and World Report, the Washington Post, and Parker Brothers. His paintings honoring the Olympic Games, American music, and history have appeared on U.S. postage stamps. He lives in Sparks, Maryland.

About This Title


Paperback: 9781600604614

Hardcover: 9781584302766

Six Pack: 9781620140833


Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist
Texas Library Association (TLA)

Starred Review
School Library Journal

Carter G. Woodson Award
National Council for the Social Studies

Distinguished Children's Biography List
Cleveland Public Library

Editor's Favorites
The Bloomsbury Review

Kiriyama Prize, Notable Children's Books
Pacific Rim Voices

Librarian's Choices
Texas Woman's University

Once Upon a World Children's Book Award
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance Library and Archives

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Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 2 - 8

Reading Level:

Grades 3 - 4


Nonfiction, Middle Grade, United States History, Sports, Identity/Self Esteem/Confidence, Responsibility, Overcoming Obstacles, Mentors, History, Dreams & Aspirations, Discrimination, Childhood Experiences and Memories, Biography/Memoir, Asian/Asian American Interest, Poverty, Sports History, Leadership, Optimism/Enthusiasm, Persistence/Grit, Respect/Citizenship, Self Control/Self Regulation, Pride

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