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Thursday, July 31, 2014         

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Take on Makaha accurately depicts Sunn

By Burl Burlingame

POSTED:


"Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing," by Stuart Holmes Coleman (St. Martin's Griffin, $14.99)

It's always a little fascinating to read a book largely about someone you know, and so, a disclaimer -- for a couple of semesters, Rell Sunn was the sports editor of the Leeward Community College newspaper while I was the editor, and we were great friends for that too-brief period. We stayed pals whose paths crossed not often enough, and when she died it seemed like the sun had truly set on the Leeward Coast.

For most, Makaha is out there, about as far as you can drive from town and not wind up in the ocean. "Fierce Heart" is a kind of meditation on this untamed coast, the Wild West of surfing, as different from the laid-back cool of North Shore as chalk and cheese. Author Coleman focuses on the personalities shaped by life there, on Buffalo Keaulana, on Israel Kamakawiwoole, and of course on Rell Sunn, a down-to-earth water goddess known as the "Queen of Makaha."

Their lives intersected and spun a kind of modern Hawaiian narrative different from other regions of the islands, sparked by the Hawaiian musical "renaissance" and the incredible cultural spark created by the voyages of the Hokule'a. Coleman's storytelling is pretty anecdotal, but then, Hawaiian culture comes from a storytelling tradition, doesn't it?

The stories about Rell rang true for me here. That matters.

Coleman's writing is impressionistic and not overly organized, although it seamlessly drifts in and out of Makaha lives, in the manner of a dream one is eager to remember. It's good enough that the book makes an emotional impact, and you're not sure why. Sometimes, when the metaphor is breaking, you've just got to dig in deep and stroke for it, ride it all the way and enjoy the view.

"The Surfing Handbook -- Mastering the Waves for Beginning and Amateur Surfers," by Ben Marcus (MVP, $19.99)

Shouldn't this book be waterproof? It's a heavily illustrated guide for the surfing tyro, so basic that I'm not sure the target market has ever actually seen the ocean, much less dipped a toe in it. If you know a Midwestern kid who's gone surf-crazy, this might be helpful.

There's a brief history of the sport, some pages on different types of boards, a discussion on wet suits versus bikinis, some recipes for surfer food and many pages showing how to paddle and stand up. It's all quite professionally executed -- with a definite California vibe -- but seriously, you can pick up the basics faster from a YouTube clip.






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