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Rell Sunn

Inducted Into Surfing Walk Of Fame

Sunn also took part in Hokule'a crew events. These involved a double-hulled canoe similar to those used by Polynesians who came to Hawaii from the South Seas around 800 C.E. She was also a key figure in a project that gave underprivileged Hawaiian children the chance to make a sailing trip around the state's islands, giving them a deeper sense of their cultural heritage. A respected surfing instructor, she established the Menehune ("little people") Surfing Championships in 1976, which became the largest junior surf competition in the world. She was one of the first five women inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, California, in 1996. That year, she also received the Waterman Achievement Award from the Surf Industry Manufacturer's Association.

Sunn was a local celebrity on Oahu. "Hawaiians considered her a state treasure who used her fame to celebrate Hawaiian culture," Thomas wrote in the New York Times, and fellow lifeguard Brian Keaulana asserted that Sunn "was the greatest in surfing, swimming, sailing, spearfishing—but more than that, she was the embodiment of the aloha spirit," he told Martin in the Independent. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1983, she endured a mastectomy, and then a bone marrow transplant. After losing her hair because of chemotherapy, she went out surfing wearing a swim cap soon afterward; when her fellow surfers saw this, they arrived the next day wearing similar headgear in solidarity. Sunn often begged doctors to discharge her from the hospital, and they would do so only on the condition that she rest at home; instead, she returned as soon as possible to the waves with her board. She was fond of saying that surfing was, for her, the best therapy.

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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: