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History

Hawaii is surrounded by the sea. Hawaii's rich aquatic tradition includes swimming, sailing, and surfing. Starting with the great Duke Kahanamoku and carried forth by coaching legend Soichi Sakamoto, no other sport has gained as much recognition for Hawaii as has swimming. No less than 49 Olympic medals have been won by Hawaii swimmers and divers, and 14 Hawaii athletes have been inducted into the International Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.

The Hawaii Swimming Legacy Project is the non-profit parent agency of the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame. The Legacy Project was started in 1999 by UH Professor Dr. Hiroshi Yamauchi, Olympians Sonny Tanabe, Evelyn Kawamoto, Bill Smith, and Gary Hosaka and Keith Arakaki. They had concern that richness of Hawaii's swimming and diving legacy would be gradually forgotten, and was in danger of being lost forever, unless a concerted effort was made to gather, preserve, and disseminate for present and future generations, this history. The vision of the project was to preserve the history of swimming and diving in Hawaii and to provide inspiration for future generations of Hawaii athletes.

With grant and other donated money, Prof. Hiroshi Yamauchi created the timeline display of modern Hawaii swimming competition, "Aukai to Aukai." Aukai means: to travel or swim by sea; sea fairing; sailor; seafarer. The traveling display was seen at Honolulu Hale, State Library, and Honolulu International Airport. It is currently on display at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center, Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park.

Olympian Sonny Tanabe spearheaded a campaign to create a Hall of Fame for swimmers, divers, water polo players, masters swimmers and channel swimmers. This culminated in the first Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame induction held in 2002 at the Waikiki Elks Club, a reunion of Olympian, National Champion, and International Champion swimming greats.

More donations came in, and more work was done to promote Hawaii's swimming and aquatic legacy. A giant replica of the Hall of Fame medallion was created out of bronze, and is prominently displayed at the Honolulu International Airport, in the Diamond Head Concourse.

The second class of inductees were honored at the 2003 induction at the Waikiki Elks Club.

Then crowds got so big that the induction banquet outgrew the Waikiki Elks Club, and the third induction class was honored in the larger Hale Koa Hotel Derussy Hall in 2005.

The 4th and 5th inductions continued to be held at the Hale Koa Hotel Derussy Hall in 2008 and 2012.

The 6th induction class will be honored in the Hale Koa Hotel Derussy Hall at the induction banquet in October 2015.

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