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Rell Sunn

First Competed At Age 14

Sunn was devoted to the sport as a youngster, and entered her first competition in 1964, at the age of 14. As with many of the early contests she competed in, there were no "wahine" or women's categories, so she simply registered alongside the boys. As a young woman in the early 1970s, Sunn worked hard to establish a parallel women's circuit with other early women surfing champs like Joyce Hoffman and Linda Benson, and became one of the co-founders of the Women's Professional Surfing Association in 1975. When a ranking system was established, Sunn held the number one spot in the world for a time.

Not surprisingly, Sunn was a strong swimmer, and was Hawaii's first female lifeguard; at times she was treated rudely by men she had rescued. Proud of her Polynesian heritage, she was also a skilled spear fisher, and once wrote an article about capturing a prize, 45-pound ulua fish. She speared it, then followed it down with her snorkel on. "I sunk the fingers of one hand into his eye socket and gripped the spear shaft protruding from his head with the other, and began to guide him out and up toward the surface," she wrote in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Back on her board with it, she saw a tiger shark coming after her, and was forced to let the ulua go; the shark devoured it within seconds, and Sunn made it to shore safely. She observed that in the water, "under the deceptively placid surface, was a world blind to gender. Though I was taught by men, I was formed by and subjected to the rigid laws of a seemingly lawless realm that treated me and every grazing ulua or marauding shark with the same utter equanimity."

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Famous Sports StarsExtreme SportsRell Sunn Biography - First Competed At Age 14, Inducted Into Surfing Walk Of Fame, Succumbed To 15-year Fight - SELECTED WRITINGS BY SUNN: