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Corky Carroll on Aloha and Rell Kapolioka’ehukai Sunn


Rell Sunn : photo courtesy Legendary Surfers

Corky's Corner

Heart of the Sea

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 27 March, 2009 : - - When I was a little kid and making my first trips to Hawaii one of the places that I liked to surf a lot was Makaha Beach.  Makaha is on the west shore of the island of Oahu and for the most part has never been a real haole friendly surf spot. 

Haole is the local term for a white person, much the same as “gringo” is in Latin countries.  It can be used as a bad thing or just as a matter of fact “that’s what you are” thing, depending on the delivery and who is the one making the delivery.  For instance if a huge local dude comes paddling up to you with a scowl on his face and says, “Hey haole,” it normally is NOT a good thing.

For some reason I really liked the waves at Makaha.  It was not really a spot that I would have thought that I would take too.  I like lefts and it is a right.  Combine that with the fact that I was a semi-loud mouthed Southern California kid who was just beginning to get a name in the surf world, the exact thing that they really hate over there.  Not a good combination really. 

But for some strange reason I got along there and really loved the waves and the people who surfed there.  Maybe because I learned to shut up and not take more than my share of waves.  Or maybe they were just ready to pound me at any minute and I just never knew it.  Who knows?  But I hung out there a lot during all of the years that I was competing and always loved the vibe there.

There were a couple of sisters who close to my age and were excellent surfers that lived there.  The Sunn Sisters.  Rella Sunn was the younger of the two and grew into one of the greatest women surfers in the world.  She was beautiful and had a classic Hawaiian surfing style.  I think she had a lot of wannabe boyfriends all over the world too.  Her and I were always good friends starting from when we were both in our early teens.

Rell became to be known as the “Queen of Makaha.”  Everybody loved her there and everywhere she went.  I remember she traveled a lot with former Womens World Champion Jericho Poppler.  That was a pair, believe me.  Jericho with her red hair and constant laughing and smiling and Rell the more tranquil of the two.  Both good-looking girls and both living life as it should be.  Like, “where’s the fun?”  I liked that about them.

Unfortunately at middle age Rell got cancer and after a long battle with it she died.  The surfing world suffered a dark day when that happened.  One of its brightest lights was lost.  It hit everybody very hard too.  How could this beautiful and still very young woman be taken like that?  One of those mysteries than can never be explained I guess.

A movie has been made about the life of Rell Kapolioka’ehukai Sunn.  It’s called “Heart of the Sea.”  The multi-award winning documentary will have a special screening on March 28th at the Festival of Arts at 650 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach.  Doors open at 6 and the show starts at 8.  There is a special VIP package that includes dinner and other cool stuff including a raffle.

This will be a very cool event to attend.  Rell was really something special in the surfing world and her story is one that you will be glad to know.  She was the total water woman.  Surfing, bodysurfing, outrigger canoeing, spear-fishing.  She could do it all.  And with beauty and grace.  I am happy that I was one of the lucky ones to know her and consider her a pal.

In other news it was just confirmed that the main sponsor for this years U.S. Open of Surfing will be Hurley, the surf company founded by Orange Counties own Bob Hurley back in 1999.  This is the biggest event in the world for surfing and held here in Huntington Beach each year at the end of July.  Dating back to 1959 this event is ultra rich in color and history.  Stay tuned for more information on the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing right here.

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Corky Carroll

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