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Duke's Big Contest

Ben Aipa, 1967 Duke contest. Photo: Don James
Duke, with 1965 finalists: Hakman, Pomar, Strauch
Jeff Hakman, 1965 Duke winner. Photo: LeRoy Grannis
Kimo McVay (left) with Jock Sutherland and Duke Kahanamoku
Fred Hemmings, 1965 Duke contest. Photo: Ron Stoner

The surf media came out in force to witness and record the debut 1965 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational, the last and probably noblest commercial use to which the aging Olympian put his name. Honolulu promoter Kimo McVay was the driving force behind the event. McVay had been Kahanamoku’s manager since 1961. He opened the popular Duke Kahanamoku’s nightclub in Waikiki—where singer Don Ho, five nights a week, warmed up the crowd with “Tiny Bubbles” and “Beyond the Reef”—and licensed his client’s nam...

The Duke Invitational became the sport’s most prestigious event. A small, hand-picked field of surfers in a one-day battle at Sunset Beach. No small-wave grubbing here. You didn’t win at Sunset with head-dips, or spinners, or any other tricks.