Surfer of the Century

By School Library Journal

This picture-book biography celebrates the life of champion swimmer and surfer. The athlete’s life spanned a key period in Hawaii as it grew from a sleepy rural backwater to a tourist mecca. Kahanamoku grew up in and on the water in his hometown of Waikiki. His natural swimming abilities soon attracted a coach, and he began to train for the 1912 Olympics. In a race in August, 1911, he shattered swim records, but the Amateur Athlete Union would not recognize his accomplishment because it found his times too amazing to be believed. Nonetheless, he earned the right to compete in the Olympics where he won gold and became friends with Jim Thorpe. Kahanamoku also did much to popularize the sport of surfing through his travels and his later career. This appreciative biography does a fine job of summarizing his accomplishments. Crowe depicts his encounters with racial discrimination with sensitivity, underscoring the courage and character he developed to face these setbacks. The text is concise and readable, ably supported by Waldrep’s full-page color art on every spread. These vibrant, action-filled illustrations, reminiscent of old-fashioned travel postcards, add much to the book’s overall appeal. Well researched and fact-filled, this book will appeal to a wide audience of general readers.