Sidewinder Films’ Duke Kahanamoku Scripted Feature in Pre-Production

The production company behind the successful WATERMAN documentary is now in the early stages of producing a scripted feature film about Duke Kahanamoku’s life.



WATERMAN Producers and Directors on stage with David Magdael
WATERMAN Producers and Directors on stage with David Magdael

Los Angeles, CA – May 10th, 2022

Following festival and theatrical successes for its documentary Waterman – and the May 10th TV premiere on American Masters on PBS – Sidewinder Films has begun pre-production on a scripted, narrative feature based on the inspiring story of Duke Kahanamoku. The producers announced the new project at a special screening of WATERMAN at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. WATERMAN covers this five-time Olympic medalist’s extraordinary life and legacy who spread surfing around the world while overcoming racism and a lifetime of personal challenges.

The documentary’s production team has been inundated with requests and grass-roots support for the Hawaiian hero. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic reaction at screenings around the country,” said producer David Ulich. “A scripted feature will spread Duke’s positive message of aloha to an even wider audience,” said producer Dr. Steven Ungerleider. “Duke is finally getting his due as a true Hawaiian hero,” echoed Waterman director Isaac Halasima.

In pursuing a scripted feature, Sidewinder Films has taken the first steps toward a treatment and screenplay and has actively started discussions with potential production partners. The feature film offers major opportunities for, among other things, a lead actor portraying a heroic figure, an action-based story and a vibrant Hawaiian setting.

Narrated by Jason Momoa, Waterman won “Best of Festival” at the recent Malibu Film Festival, and the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Hawaii International Film Festival, among other accolades. The documentary is currently in theaters and has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes ahead of its PBS American Masters premiere on May 10. The film features commentary from surfing’s biggest stars, including Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton and Olympic gold medalist Carissa Moore. Through rare footage, contemporary visuals and incisive interviews, the film covers themes that resonate today – the role of sports in breaking barriers and the struggle to overcome racial prejudice.

The documentary takes a number of dramatic turns with movie potential. Unlike other Olympic champions who went on to further glory, Duke’s dream of playing Tarzan in the movies never materialized, with the role going to rival swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, likely because of discrimination. Duke nevertheless went on to represent Pacific Islanders in minor Hollywood roles and eventually became Hawai’i’s “Ambassador of Aloha.” By the time it became the 50th state, surfing had spread throughout the U.S. and around the world - all because of Duke Kahanamoku.

Sidewinder Films has an award-winning track record in sports-related films, including the acclaimed At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal for HBO, which won TV Academy Honors, and the news making and Emmy-nominated Munich ‘72 and Beyond for PBS.

Sidewinder Films is a division of The Foundation for Global Sports Development, which supports initiatives that promote accessible, fair and abuse-free sport for youth through media and community-based efforts.

About The Foundation for Global Sports Development and Sidewinder Films

The Foundation for Global Sports Development, established in 1996, was born out of a desire to promote and protect the best parts of sport. Guided by its original mission, the foundation delivers and supports initiatives that promote accessible, fair, and abuse-free sport for youth. The foundation achieves this objective through grants, awards, educational projects, and filmmaking. In 2015, the foundation launched its media company, Sidewinder Films, to inspire and educate audiences through films that shed light on the remarkable, untold stories that celebrate the sport of life. Visit and to learn more.

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Brooke Bumgardner, The Foundation for Global Sports Development, 5416839278,