NDEPENDENT LENS Profiles Inspirational Female Surfing Legend Rell Sunn

May 6, 2003

HEART OF THE SEA is a portrait of Rell “Kapolioka’ehukai” Sunn, a pioneer of women’s professional surfing who died of breast cancer at the age of 47. At home in Hawaii, Rell achieved the stature of an icon—not only for her physical power and grace, but for her leadership in a community that loved her as much as she loved it. Watch HEART OF THE SEA on INDEPENDENT LENS May 6, 2003 at 10:00 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

Web site highlights include:

Women Make Waves

Learn about “surfer girl” pioneers. From the “Wahines” who made waves in the ‘30s and ‘40s to the Gidget phenomenon and the rise of women’s surfing as a professional sport rivaling men today.

The Film and Rell Sunn

Learn about Rell’s life, from the history and accomplishments of her surfing career to her role in the community as an organizer and activist for at-risk youth and the preservation of her native Hawaii. Rell became an educator and activist for breast cancer awareness and for the protection of the environment from the toxins she believed had caused her disease.

Filmmaker Q & A

Filmmakers Charlotte Lagarde and Lisa Denker share their thoughts on the making of the film, including why they picked Rell as their subject and the legacy they feel she left behind.

Learn More

Get extensive links to Web sites, books and articles on the history of surfing, information on breast cancer, Rell Sunn and surf culture.


What do you think Rell Sunn will be remembered for? How do you think Rell’s connection to her Hawaiian culture contributed to her talents as a waterwoman? Answer these questions and give your reactions to the program.


Hosted by Angela Bassett, this anthology series showcases powerful and innovative independent programming. INDEPENDENT LENS is broadcast on PBS stations. Check local listings at www.pbs.org/independentlens.