"Heart of the Sea"
Surfer. Disc jockey. Hula instructor. Freediver. Youth speaker.
Black belt. Contest director. Lifeguard. Teacher. Waianaie Cancer
Research Project Guide. Queen of Makaha. While Rell Sunn didn't
deliver surfing to the world as Duke Kahanamoku had done in the
'10s and '20s, she gave innumerable youths on Hawaii's impoverished
West Side something to live for by delivering them into the world
of surfing. Quite simply, from Duke's passing in 1968 until cancer
cut her life short toward the close of the century, there was no
better Hawaiian representative for the sport of surfing than Sunn.
lived her entire life on Oahu's West Side. She began surfing at
age four and never strayed from the ocean. A dedicated diver, canoe
paddler and surfer, she became the most accomplished waterwoman
and best female longboarder in the world. She attended the 1966
world contest and, a decade later, played a vital role in starting
a world tour for women. During her competitive career, she finished
in the top eight in the world seven times, twice reaching number
three. Her competitive credentials, while impressive, fail to present
a complete picture.
boundless contributions begin with her menehune contest on the West
Side that she inaugurated in 1976. Every year, she collected prizes
and trophies to give children with few opportunities a chance to
taste success. She also found surfboards for those who couldn't
afford them and guided many young Hawaiians from troubled childhoods
into promising careers in surfing. Without her energy and compassion,
many of top Hawaiian professionals, from Johnny Gomes to Sunny Garcia,
would likely have ended up on the wrong side of the law.The scope
of her goodwill was not limited to Hawaii. Since the 1966 World
Contest in San Diego, her first real surf trip, her life was a collection
of journeys. In 1986, she joined a Surfer magazine expedition that
brought surfing to communist China. She traveled extensively, spreading
Hawaiian aloha to every corner of the globe and always returning
to Hawaii having brightened a few more lives. "Rell's Motel,"
her quaint home just one minute from Makaha, was a sanctuary for
wayward visitors. It was her mission for people to leave with more
direction than they came.
In 1983, Sunn was diagnosed with cancer.
For 15 years, she battled the disease, surfing nearly throughout
and never once complaining or wavering in her positive outlook.
In 1995, she married former professional surfer and outspoken shaper
Dave Parmenter, her third husband.
unfailingly happy, her physical condition hit a downward spiral
that culminated in her passing on the second day of 1998. Thousands
of mourners turned out at Makaha to bid her farewell, each in some
way affected by her warm charm. As the world of surfing lost a great
ambassador, her spirit remains with everyone she touched. -- Jason
Borte, August 2000
special thanx to the great
Surfline.com for this tribute
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