Super rare DUKE plank - In need of love (1920's or 30's)

Hi Guys,

A helpful person pointed me in your direction. I’ve picked up one of Duke Kahanamoku’s boards, its a solid redwood plank with DUKE carved into the head, and white paint within the letter (which has since gone yellow).

The board has been stored for decades (made in the 20’s or 30’s). Its got some cracks, and is very light in colour now… I like the colour, and the fact its untouched, but I’d also like to a) protect the wood from getting worse, and b) bring back the lovely redwood colour.

I’ve researched all the oils that were used in Ca and Hawaii, and it looks like coconut oil would be the best to use.

Has anyone ‘restored’ a redwood plank before - and what are peoples thoughts?

Thanks in advance - and for those that are interested, I’ve uploated a load of imags of the board here: 


Can you verify the provenance/chain of possession on the board? It looks almost too good, IMO. Too clean, too pristine. I’d expect something that old to show a bit more age.

You shoud take the board to the Surfing Heritage Foundation in San Clem

They can verify the authenticity if there’s any doubt, and also advise the best way to preserve it. My own suggestion would be to do nothing to it, at all. If it really was one of Duke K’s own boards it should not be messed with.


Hi Sammy,

The dark redwood’s surface has become so dry, that very washed out - and this hides alot of marks… espeically when shot in direct sunlight. There are direct links to Bud Higgins, a known friend of Duke’s, and its documented in a few places that Bud would look after Duke’s boards while he was travelling. So its pretty tightly linked to the Duke even without the carving.

Thanks for your comments re-leaving it alone too.


Take it to the SHF in San Clem. It’s an important piece of history if what you say can be verified.

I intend to, and I’m talking with them… however, I’ve moved the board from Cali to the UK & its not the easiest thing to move around (as its solid wood, and big). The paper trial has been verified by an ex president of the long board association though.




PLEASE, do not do anything to alter the board from its present condition!       The patina of age should not  be disturbed.   

Ok Bill - I’m not going to question a man with your experience, thats for sure.

I wont touch it, but if any of the cracks run deeper over the years it may be worth looking at again. I’ll display the board as much as possible too… hopfully it will spread a bit of Duke where ever it goes.



My god… how did you even get this? It’s like you just showed us a picture of yourself with the holy grail or your new pet dodo bird 

To say it looks to good to be true is a major understatement.

I’ve been friends with a large private collector (who has many Duke Kahanamoku items), and an ambassidor of long board collections in general - We met after I bought a very rare redwood hotcurl which Velzy saved from rot & re-shaped. There are two Duke boards in this collection, and this one has the iconic carving. It was stored by Bud Higgins for much of its life, then his family sold it to the collector I know - from here its been stored in a private display with many other amazing boards.

Here some images of it out of sunlight from my phone - some of them are not great quatlity when enlarged.



Thanks for the better pictures.  Can definately see the age.  My suggestion would be to contact the Bishop Museum in Hawaii.  Looks to me like at some point the original finish was stripped off.   Pretty sure there was a specific native oil they used on those boards.  If anything…that is the only thing I would do to it.

I’m sure that the Bishop museum would have someone on staff that is a surfboard conservator that can advise you in keeping that board preserved. 

If anyone out there wants to do some detective work It’s very possible that there are a couple of Duke boards somewhere in or around the Atlantic City Philadelphia area.  Duke trained for The Stockholm Olympics in both Philadelphia and Atlantic City. He wrote to his Brother David in Hawaii asking him to build a couple of boards that he could use in the NJ surf.  The Boards arrived in 1912 about a week after his ship sailed for Sweden 

When he returned from The Games with a Gold and Silver medals he agreed to do some Surfing demos in the surf next to the Million Dollar Pier in Atlantic City. People were charged a small fee to get on the Pier and watch the Duke perform

He had two boards one as a backup if the first was getting too water logged and needed to dry out. I have never found any information on if those boards were shipped back to Hawaii or if they were stored somewhere in or around Philadelphia or AC. Surfing in NJ was the first that Duke surfed on the main Land.

Hawai’ian tradition would be kukui nut oil,…Spread Aloha, Randy

I’ll contact Bishop Museum, as I’d like to get it over to Hawaii at some point.

Kukui nut oil is certainly right for Hawaii, but as this was shaped in California, I think they may have been using coconut oils.

Interesting about the NJ boards, as I say, I do know of one other from 1914, but I’m sure others are out there - let’s hope they don’t get overlooked & lost.


I think Ben Finney is the go to guy for surfboards at The Bishop. I think Tom “Pohaku” Stone also works with the museum in regards to antique boards.

And kukui nut oil is what was used to seal and finish boards in Hawaii. That one is not Hawaiian in origin, though Hawaiian by design.

Nice comment - I wouldn’t mind having that on my clothing.

I’ll get in touch with those guys about long term care & exhibiting, as I say, it feels right that I get it over to Hawaii while I’m it’s keeper (hopefully I have many decades left). Sammy if you details could you message me?



…strange the paint foamy thing in the edge of a letter…super old paints do not do that; never saw that; may be was repainted later¿?

It’s possible it’s been repainted, but my work is actually in coatings, and I know of more than one traditional coating that would still do this, especially if mixed with a varnish.

My suspicion, since it was made in California, that it was probably sealed with the Spar Varnish, of the day.        Most RW Planks, in that era and later periods, were sealed in that way.        But my vote for today, would be Kukui Nut Oil.