Wednesday, September 29, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star Rell Sunn Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
Radiant Rell Sunn, international surfer and Oahu's first
female lifeguard, was an inspiration to all.

Makaha maiden’s
aloha immeasurable

By Greg Ambrose
Special to the Star-Bulletin


SHE didn't accumulate much money, never influenced local or state politics and was content to remain in Makaha all her life. But to mention the name Rell Sunn is to bring a smile to thousands of people around the world.

Sunn was the living embodiment of aloha in a time when that powerful spiritual force has increasingly become a commodity to promote commerce. She exuded a warmth that convinced all she met that they had a friend for life.

She became Oahu's first female lifeguard, and her rescues inspired women to believe that they could perform any job.

Sunn helped create the women's professional surfing tour, and her success as a competitor allowed generations of local girls to dream that they could turn their love of the ocean into a rewarding career.

Her famed Menehune surf contests were a valuable lesson for thousands of Hawaii's youngsters, who learned through friendly competition that everyone is a winner if they surf for the pure joy of it.

Sunn visited all hemispheres of the planet as a surfer and cultural emissary, yet she was pleased to live within bicycling distance of her beloved waves at Makaha.

Hula dancer and instructor, spear-fisher, canoe paddler, radio and TV personality, writer, Hokule'a crew member and teacher, Sunn was living proof that Hawaii is filled with charming, generous people.

"She taught a lot of people a lot of love," said Nanakuli's Momi Keaulana. "Everywhere she has gone, she has been the ambassador of aloha."

Sunn had a lot of aloha left to share when cancer took her life at age 47.

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