Stories of Rell Sunn: Queen of Makaha
Stories of Rell Sunn: Queen of Makaha
Stories of Rell Sunn: Queen of Makaha
Stories of Rell Sunn: Queen of Makaha

Stories of Rell Sunn: Queen of Makaha


The legendary water woman Rell Kapolioka‘ehukai Sunn is known around the globe. Sunn was a pioneer in the world of women’s surfing and she was renowned for her skills as a lifeguard, diver, and spear-fisher. At the heart of Rell Sunn was her spirited enthusiasm, her passion for life, and her extension of aloha to all whom she met, which truly inspired others throughout Hawaiʻi and internationally.

Rell’s life was characterized by the many incredible accomplishments she feted. Her experiences with all kinds of people have rendered fantastic, celebratory, melancholy, yet unforgettable stories. Within this book lies a broad glimpse and tribute to the woman known as the “Queen of Mākaha.” These stories are told by those who knew her best: her daughter Jan, friends from small-kid times in Mākaha, those who met her along the way, and Rell herself. Through their recounting of times and experiences, readers can now take a journey with the wonderous Rell Sunn.  

Included in this book are stories from such renown water sport enthusiasts as Rabbit Kekai, Fred Hemmings, Bonga Perkins, Kathy Terada, Sunny Garcia, Jeannie Chesser, Mark Cunningham, Kalani Robb, and many others.


“Rell Kapolioka‘ehukai Sunn, Hawai‘i's queen of surfing and many a surfer's heart is riding another wave of admiration, thanks to a recently published book of photos and anecdotes celebrating the multitalented, multiethnic island icon who died in 1998, at just 47 years old.”

The San Francisco Chronicle 

“Greg's book brings back such warm, fond memories of a time not so long ago, yet in a way, feels like ages ago. The book reads as though you are at a party and you're hearing friends and family reminisce and talk story about a dear, beloved friend... We can all learn from Greg Ambrose's wonderful collection of anecdotes on Aunty Rell.”

Mark Cunningham, Veteran Waterman

“This book is an amazing compilation of classic Rell stories and photos that will make you laugh, make you cry, but most of all make you want to live Aloha like Aunty Rell.”

Keala Kennelly, Queen of Chopes —Pro Surfer

“There are few people in Hawaii whose life becomes the stuff of legend. Rell Sunn, a women's surfing pioneer from Makaha, is one of those transcendent souls.... Her legacy lives on in this much-recommended book.”


The Rell Sunn book is simple and intimate just like Aunty Rell. The stories are meaningful and organized in a way that places the reader in her world.”

Duane DeSoto, 2010 ASP World Longboard Champion

“This book expresses all that Rell cherished in her life and shared with people... respecting the ocean, giving back to the keiki, and sharing the aloha with people here in the community and abroad. It brought tears to my eyes reading about how simple life is when your friendship is always surrounded by the sea and passion.”

Rochelle Ballard, Pro Surfer

“Rell was my best friend for 27 years. But after reading Greg's book, I can see that many others considered her their best friend as well. She was oozing aloha and always brought out the best in everyone she met... I laughed, I cried...Greg's book makes me miss her even more.”

Jeannie Chesser, Pro Surfer

“Reading these stories, you really get a sense this compilation best represents the true soul of who Rell was, as a person of fierce determination who not only lived up to her potential in life, but pushed and inspired everyone around her to do the same.”

Hawaii Book Blog

“For those people who knew her and spent much time with her, Ambrose's book will be an affirmation of her life.”

The Star-Advertiser

“Greg's book pulls no punches... One of the most moving realizations that arise from going through Greg's collection of stories about Auntie Rell is that one of her greatest assets was her lifelong connection to the child within, that endless fascination with and curiosity about everything that characterises the child-like state of grace most of us sadly leave in our distant past.”

Amazon Review

Rell personified all that is good about Hawaii and this book expresses that in part. Heartfelt and personal, the stories and remembrances shared are well worth the cost of publication and provide a much great enrichment and value to the reader.”

Amazon Reviews


Greg Ambrose was a former editor and writer at the San Francisco Chronicle and was the ocean reporter and editor for the Honolulu Star Bulletin. He is currently a freelance writer and the featured contributor to the Discovery Channel's prized show, Shark Week. Greg is a Kapalapala Ko‘opela Book Award winner as well as a recipient of the Kilohana Award of Excellence for previous books he has written.