Rell Sunn

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Rell Kapolioka'ehukai Sunn (July 31, 1950 in Makaha, Oahu, Hawaii – January 2, 1998 in Makaha, Oahu, Hawaii) was an American world surfing champion. Known as "Queen of Makaha" and "Aunty Rell", she was a pioneer in the world of women's surfing.

Cancer battle[edit]

In 1982, during a pro surf meet in Huntington Beach, California, Sunn felt a lump in her breast which turned out to be breast cancer. When she was diagnosed in 1983, her prognosis was for one year. Sunn continued to surf every day after her diagnosis, despite the pain and chemotherapy associated with the disease.

Following her diagnosis, Sunn became a radio disc jockey and surf reporter, a physical therapist at a Waianae care home, and a counselor at a cancer research center.[1] She helped pilot a program for breast cancer awareness at the Wai'anae Cancer Research Center that involved educating local women about the causes and prevention of breast cancer.

Over the next 14 years, her cancer went into remission three times, and she underwent a mastectomy and a bone marrow transplant.


Rell Sunn died on January 2, 1998, aged 47. More than 3,000 people attended her memorial service, where her ashes were scattered in the ocean off her native Makaha.[2]


Rell Sunn had one daughter, Jan Sunn-Carreira.[3]

Tributes, honors, and memorials[edit]

  • In 1996, Sunn was the topic of the song "Mother Of The Sea" by Hawaiian Singer/Songwriter Darren Benitez.
  • In August 1996 she was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame as that year's Woman of the Year; the Walk is in Huntington Beach, California.[4][5]
  • In 1997, an award-winning documentary about Sunn's life, Heart of the Sea, was filmed by Charlotte Lagarde and Lisa Denker.[6]
  • In 2010 a book, Stories of Rell Sunn: Queen of Mākaha, was published.[7]
  • Dave Wronski, lead guitarist of Slacktone, composed an instrumental surf rock tune, "Rell Sunn Aloha", in her honor.


  1. ^ [1] Honolulu Star-Bulletin, editorial, January 5, 1998.
  2. ^ Rell Sunn - the Queen of Makaha, the Heart of the Sea
  3. ^ Thomas Jr., Robert (January 26, 1998). "Rell Sunn, 47, Hawaiian Surfing Champion". The New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2014-11-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Honolulu Star-Bulletin Sports
  6. ^ ."Heart of the Sea" site Archived 2002-12-09 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Cooper, Jeanne (2011-02-04). "Rell Sunn: Celebrating Hawaii's queen of surfing". Hearst Communications Inc. Retrieved 2011-02-04.

External links[edit]