Inspired by Duke and Doc
"I met the most fascinating man today," I told my husband when I called him from my hotel room at Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach
. This isn't an unusual phrase to hear escaping my lips. I am forever running into interesting people.
"He's a doctor who surfs," I continued. "Or, maybe, more accurately, I should say he's a surfer who doctors. He's in amazing shape. Whip-smart. And he has eyes the color of the turquoise blue water off Waikiki."
At this point, if I were E, I might be worried. Especially since my husband of nearly 25 years was a 100-mile channel away at our home on Kauai.
"He's 92," I said.
I had originally intended to write about stand-up paddling today. After all, that's the reason I found myself on Waikiki Beach. I was there to cover the Ultimate Stand-Up Paddling Showdown as part of Duke's Oceanfest
, a nine-day, non-stop series of water (and near-the-water) sports in honor of Duke Kahanamoku.
The "Ambassador of Aloha," as Duke is reverentially called, died 45 years ago but is very much alive on the shores of Waikiki. He's everywhere. Large banners emblazoned with the visage of Duke serve as the backdrop to a stage, where young watermen and women receive awards and, even, prize money for their accomplishments. They almost always thank Duke for his inspiration.
Conner Baxter did yesterday. Repeatedly--on the beach, breathless, while being interviewed after winning $5,000 in the Ultimate Stand Up Paddling Showdown, on the awards stage, and, later, sitting at the feet of Duke's statue.
Duke was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming. He traveled internationally, giving swimming exhibitions and introducing surfing to the world. He is credited with popularizing surfing, boosting it to the international sport it is today, and he is memorialized with a larger-than-life statue, arms outstretched, on Waikiki Beach, which also happens to have a webcam trained on it, so Duke continues to "visit" countries and places worldwide.
Today, Hawai's greatest athlete also encourages young athletes via the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, an organization dedicated to financially support the development of individuals and organizations which perpetuate the spirit and legacy of Duke.
That spirit can best be summarized by Duke's creed, which was printed on the back of his business card: "In Hawaii, we greet friends, loved ones or strangers with 'Aloha' which means with love. Aloha is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality, which makes Hawaii renowned as the world's center for understanding and fellowship. Try meeting or leaving people with Aloha. You'll be surprised by their reaction. I believe it, and it is my creed. Aloha to you."
I'd meant to write about SUP today--how the sport has exploded around the world. Heck, we paddled an inflatable SUP board earlier this month on the Colorado River. Duke would be so proud. Then, I discovered a Youtube video made from 8mm film that captured Duke surfing the long waves of Waikiki--and stand up paddling. SUP may be a recent phenomenon, but it's not a new sport. I had intended to write about SUP, but I met someone else by Duke's statue, a man who claims to be the last living surfer to have ridden waves alongside Duke.
I have a tendency to fall in love with old men--and women
--and Doc was no exception. Never mind his 54-year marriage with Juliette, mother to nine of his children.
Doc Dorian Paskowitz, I learned from the many who called to him as we chatted, is a bit of a legend himself. He wore surf trunks and close-cropped white hair. But no glasses, no hearing aids.
"These things influence the person I am," he said. "One, I respect Hawaiians and their culture. Two, I am Jewish. Three, I'm a Stanford-educated doctor. Four, I have 14 children. Five, I surf."
What he didn't tell me, and I learned later from that venerable research institution called Google, is that he ditched his medical career and the comfy life that doctoring can usually provide for a Bohemian lifestyle. He traded the big house for a 24-foot RV, in which he packed all nine children, and traveled the surf sites of North America. He--and the kids--surfed religiously.
Like any elder, Doc calls it like it is. "Fat makes fat," he said.
Doc's mesmerizing blue eyes enraptured me, although he confessed to losing much of his eyesight over the years. He's still proselytizing--but more for the importance of health than surfing, although a surfing lifestyle can be a component to good health.
"Health is more than just not being sick," he said.
The keys, he said, are diet, exercise, rest, recreation and right thinking. Every single day.
Doc's words ran around in my head. They resonated with the thoughts rising from my unconscious--ever since this year's "big birthday."
I've always enjoyed Waikiki Beach for its people watching--people in all shapes and sizes, people from all walks of life, people from around the world. Yesterday, it wasn't the young athletes with enviable hard bodies paddling stand up boards who inspired me. It was one old man, body tanned and wrinkled. But lean. And eyes that gleamed, a passion no amount of years could dampen.
Doc wants to write something for these virtual pages--as a way to spread his message of health even wider--and to promote his book. He recently self-published Surfing and Health
What do you think? Do you want to hear more from Doc? Should we invite him to guest blog for me?
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