Mixed Plate
"The Queen of Makaha -- Rell Sunn"

Photo from Starbulletin.com

Rell Sunn was and is a surfing legend. More than that, she's the embodiment of the aloha spirit. I was fortunate enough to meet her on several occasions before cancer finally took her from this world.

The first time was at one of Buffalo's Big Board contests back in about '92. I was just hanging around the judge's tent, acting important, when she stopped by to wish everyone well. She didn't even know me, but still gave me a warm hug and peck on the cheek. I could almost feel her strength and aloha spirit from within. Welcoming perfect strangers with open arms was just her nature.

In December of '95, I was trying to longboard huge Makaha. Being the kook that I was/am, I managed to snap my board in half after getting caught on the inside. When I got to shore, I recuperated on the beach by taking pictures of the raging surf.

To my pleasant surprise, Rell and her husband, Dave Parmenter, plopped right next to me. She was talking story with some older surfer girls (fiftyish legend types). I introduced myself, hoping to interview both she and Dave for my website, but she was hesitant. Apparently, she didn't want me to make a big deal about her marriage to "the haole boy" (which was never my intent). Out of respect, I did not write about them in my story--sometimes the best of dialogs go unmentioned.

We still talked story a little about her dream of bringing some menehunes (surf groms) to France (which she eventually fulfilled twice), and about the surf conditions of the day (she thought the Makaha Point Challenge should have been run). Rell even gave me a surf calendar that she co-authored. I was stoked.

I also talked a little with Dave about surfboard design. He truly is one of the most cerebral surfers of our time. And his surfing skills--whew! Balls out charger. However, his attitude in and out of the water is one of confident humility. It's no wonder that most of the locals have welcomed him into the community. Sometimes being Hawaiian is not measured by skin color, but by attitude.

Subsequently, I've written (on alt.surfing), and still believe "Dave and Rell are two uncommon souls that have common bonds: the love for surfing, the love for each other and the love for life."

In January of '97, I took a friend from Central Cal out to Makaha. It was then that we got to actually surf with Rella. She even dropped in on me a couple of times--for some reason, I didn't mind at all.

Her style was real smooth and graceful. She flowed with the wave, rather than trying to dominate it. And you could see the stoke in her eyes whenever she got into one--just pure joy.

There was a whole group of women that accompanied her in the lineup. I believe they owe a huge debt of gratitude to Rell, who has made the lineups much more accessible for them. She helped prove to the surfing world that women can ride waves too; maybe drawing different lines, but also adding their own unique grace to the dance.

The last time I saw Rell was at the airport in September of '97. She and Dave were returning from a trip to the West Coast. I'd heard she had a flare-up of the cancer, and she did look a bit weary. However, she was always strong enough to give a smile and a wave.

On January 3, 1998, Rell Sunn passed from this life onto a better place. No more pain and suffering; just good waves and smiles. Although she's no longer with us, her legacy of inspiration and aloha will live on forever.

Aloha oe, Rella...

Sunn Gets Her Chance to Shine
Surfing Legend Rell Sunn Dies
Channel 2 News (FOX) -- News Script For 1/3/98 at 6 PM
Rell Sunn was more than a surfing legend (Editorial)
A Young Woman and the Sea (by Rell Sunn)