100 Years Apart: The Shared Legacy of Hawaiians Carissa Moore and Duke Kahanamoku
At the intersection of King and Pensacola Street in Honolulu two famous Hawaiian figures hover like guardians high above the traffic, painted into an 150-foot mural by local artist Kamea Hader. Carissa Moore stands ten-stories tall with Duke Kahanamoku standing majestically behind her shoulder. The Hawaiian flag is draped around her shoulders, the blue of which compliments the deep ocean wave crashing at the bottom of the mural. It sets nicely against the coral-pink of the surrounding buildings. At the bottom, a smaller Carissa Moore shreds an ocean wave. Her signature layback jam has probably incited at least one work-bound citizen to abandon the office in favor of the ocean.
Hadar used 20 gallons of paint, 15 gallons of primer, and 10 gallons of clear coat to complete the mural. With every brush stroke, he wanted to "reinforce how inspirational both athletes are and share their stories with the world."
It’s fitting to portray the two Olympic champions together like this.
Carissa Moore has become a “realization of Kahanamoku’s dream” to see surfing debut in the Olympics. That a Native Hawaiian could bring home the gold was a big deal. As Kūhiō Lewis, the president of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, explained, “At times, we’re an invisible people. We’re lumped into other ethnic groups. Our sport is being defined by other groups. This puts it into perspective.”
Upon her arrival back home, the mayor of Honolulu awarded Carissa Moore the keys to the city and declared October 6th as "Carissa Moore Day". Moore might be the only athlete to have two official days on the calendar – in 2016 after her third World title win, the then-mayor of Honolulu proclaimed January 4th as “Carissa Moore Day”.
Duke Kahanamoku certainly had his rounds of world-firsts, too. In his day, he was the swimmer to beat, a world-record smasher, five-time Olympic medalist, and inventor of the revolutionary flutter kick he had developed in Hawai’i. "Hawai'i's best-known citizen" brought surfing back to Hawai’i after a lengthy colonial lull and introduced the sport to California, New Jersey, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.
When Carissa Moore was asked how Duke Kahanamoku's legacy had impacted her going into the Olympics, she replied, "it's a lot to be mentioned in the same sentence as Duke . . . I grew up surfing Waikiki and passing by his statue every day. His legacy is beautiful. It's about treating people with kindness and sharing what you have without wanting anything in return. He had the biggest heart. I think he was an incredible athlete, Olympian, and waterman as well."
The same can be said of Carissa Moore’s legacy, too. To all of the countries her surfboard takes her, Moore brings kindness and a desire to share with local communities. She is an athletic prodigy; her powerhouse paddling and explosive aerials puts her easily in contention as one of the best surfers ever, male or female. Both Kahanamoku and Moore have used their international recognition to give back to the Hawaiian community, whether it be by becoming Hawai’i’s official Welcome Ambassador, or creating empowering nonprofits.
Scores get forgotten. Stats fade into dust. But as Carissa Moore said, people will remember how you make them feel. That's aloha. That's love.