There’s a reason the new movie Waterman—exclusively in theaters April 2022—has raked in so many film awards from festivals in multiple states. While Waterman explores the life and influence of legendary Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku and Duke’s legacy as a swimmer, trailblazer, and the undisputed father of modern-day surfing, this real-life hero sets a high bar for youth and adults alike and teaches us to rise to the occasion even amid persecution and better the world around us.

Through Duke’s incredible athletic accomplishments, personal doctrine of Aloha, and enduring gift to the world of surfing, the film explores a theme that still resonates today – the role of sports in breaking societal barriers – and celebrates his triumphs and philosophy of kuleana [koo-lee-ah-nah], which means responsibility and a deeper sense of relationship that incorporates the spirit of Aloha into our own lives. 

Duke in Hollywood | The Paragon Agency

From modest roots in Waikīkī, Duke Kahanamoku swam his way to fame, becoming the face of a changing Hawaii – and a vital part of its tourism industry – as it evolved from an independent Kingdom to the 50th American state. Yet relatively few outside Hawaiʻi know the full extent of Duke’s impact on sports, lifesaving, and combatting prejudice. Kahanamoku battled both institutional and informal racism throughout his long life, whether as a dark-skinned man during the Olympic Games or even back home in Hawai’i, where white-run clubs refused entry to Native Hawaiians. Duke’s waterman lifestyle and skills made him a natural all-star athlete and eventual Olympic champion. But this was not well known to say the least. “Growing up in Utah, there are hundreds of thousands of Polynesians out there, and it was surprising that no one really knew who Duke Kahanamoku was. And it bothered me.” - Director Isaac Halasima stated. Halasima set out to make sure Duke would not be lost to history. “As a fellow Polynesian-American, I’ve always looked at Duke as a hero. Waterman is my chance to honor Duke Kahanamoku, a native Hawaiian who was able to use the ancient teachings and philosophies of his culture to change the world going forward. In the process, he opened doors for Polynesians to succeed in a world still deep in its own struggle with discrimination and segregation. So, in a way, this is a story about how a defeated island nation, in the middle of the Pacific, saw one of its most loyal warriors win over the heart of America, and then conquer the world.” And the impact doesn’t stop there. “This film will not only speak to Polynesians today but will inspire the world, in a time where divisiveness and contention are the go-to response, and teach the world but most importantly the rising generation that there is a better, more inspiring way to live and respond to what life throws at us” says Waterman producer David Ulich.

Five-time Olympic medalist and Native Hawaiian Duke Paoa Kahanamoku shattered records and brought surfing to the world while overcoming a lifetime of personal challenges. Waterman explores his journey and legacy as a legendary swimmer, trailblazer, and the undisputed father of modern-day surfing, following the sport’s first-time inclusion in this year’s Games – a fitting tribute to his work promoting the sport around the globe.

Duke with 16 foot surfboard

This original documentary by Sidewinder Films (At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, Munich ’72 and Beyond), features commentary from surfing’s biggest stars, including newly-crowned Olympic gold medalist Carissa Moore, while also delving into his personal successes, struggles and humanitarianism through rare footage, contemporary visuals and incisive interviews.

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Adding to the essence of the film, Waterman also features the extremely talented A-list actor and native Hawaiian Jason Momoa (Dune, Aquaman) as the film’s narrator. “Jason has an incredible affinity, love and respect for Duke,” said Halasima. “He’s a waterman himself and brought that passion to this project.”  See Waterman, opening exclusively in theaters in Hawaii April 1st, Utah April 8th and California April 15th and better your life and those around you through embracing the Spirit of Aloha.

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