Photos and Written By Spencer Suitt

Inaugurated in 1976, this year’s Rell Sunn Menehune Surfing Championship was more than special, celebrating its 40th year over Easter weekend. This event is perfect for any surfer, non-surfer or soon-to-be surfer aged 4-13 who might want to put on a colored contest jersey and have a great time. Hundreds of children statewide visit Makaha Beach each year to participate in the contest that includes bodyboard, longboard, shortboard and the most popular of them all, the Kokua Division.

The first day saw perfect 1-2 foot grom-sized waves that allowed the surfers to open up and build confidence going into the finals on Sunday. The “Sunn” Spirit rose on Easter Day as contestants were treated to increased 2-4 foot classic Makaha swell. The 6-years and under parent- assist Kokua Division kicked off the day as contestants were getting some of the longest rides of their young lives. Once that division wrapped up, contest organizers put on a fun Easter Egg hunt where hundreds of eggs were hidden in the beach sand, under rocks and bushes. The kids scattered as fast as they could to find them all, especially the two golden eggs that are two new surfboards!

The action was heating back up in the water with multiple menehune making the finals in two separate categories. Nine-year-old Nalu Deodato defended his title from 2015 and took out the 7-9 boys’ shortboard. Not one wave went unridden in the 10-12 boys shortboard final and Kalani Delarole carved it up for the win. John Van Hohenstein put on a nose-riding clinic in the 10-12 boys’ longboard division for the victory.

For the wahine, all the 7-9-year-olds wore their hearts on their sleeve but it was Marina Fonseca, coming out with the victory and new Patagonia surfboard in the shortboard division. Freshly turned 11, Betty Lou “Sakura” Johnson posted multiple 10-point rides to defend her title in the 10-12-year-old shortboard division. But one of the most awesome heats of the day was in the 13-year-old girls division that happened to have only one entrant. Ka’ehu Topping who surfed her own 15-minute final in the perfect Makaha waves. The whole beach arena cheered her every ride and she even got royal treatment from Brian Keaulana on the water patrol jet ski giving her lifts back out to the lineup.

Countless volunteers and sponsors come together to help Rell’s daughter, Jan, and Jan’s husband, Tony,
put on this event. Their support helps carry on Rell’s legacy and brings stoke to all contestants. Forty years later, the one thing that remains the same is the strong spirit of aloha.

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