Style Heroes—Dave Parmenter and Rell Sunn

Yesterday I took a quick trip over to Pilgrim Surf + Supply to drop off cards, have a chat with the crew, and check out the boards in stock. Right in the front of the row sat five gorgeous glossy Aleutian Juice surfboards, shaped by Dave Parmenter. My eyes were drawn immediately to a deadly yellow 6’7” widowmaker (big single fin, two small side bites). A fellow from Scotland named Malcolm came over and we started talking story about the board, Dave Parmenter, and widow makers. I asked if he knew of Dave and even more, if he knew of Dave’s late wife, Rell Sunn, the Queen of Makaha. Rell was one of the most stylish surfers to grace the planet, an inspiration to anyone who dreams of sliding waves.

Dave Parmenter (1961-present) and Rell Sunn (1950-1998) were married in 1994 in Hawaii where they lived until Rell finally succumbed to the cancer she had been battling since the early 1980s. I suppose Dave fell in love with Rell’s ability to soul arch, hang five, and push through a mean bottom turn in double overhead surf. And Rell must have admired Dave for his vicious roundhouse cutback, his articulate explanations of displacement hulls and wave bumps, and for his ability to push through a mean bottom turn in double overhead surf.

I admire both of them for their patience—neither of them ever look in a hurry to get to the end of a wave. I never got to see either of them surf in person, but I’ve seen both of them in magazines since I was a grom and grew up reading Dave’s witty articles in Surfer magazine. In the mid 2000s I watched the Rell Sunn documentary, Heart of the Sea: Kapolioka’ehukai (2002), and was continually blown away by her absolute fluency in all things ocean. When I watch a video or see images of Rell surfing I think to myself, “If all people rode waves like that, the world would be a better place.” As for Dave, there’s not much of his old surfing footage available, so most of my admiration for him comes from reading surfing magazines as a kid, from fondling his surf craft in various surf shops, and from watching people like Tom Curren, Neal Purchase Jr., and Stephanie Gilmore ride his pretty boards in pretty waves in surf films by Andrew Kidman—Litmus (1996), Glass Love (2006), Spirit of Akasha (2013). The lines that his boards draw tell me that this man understands the sea.

Below are a few articles by and about Rell and Dave. In surfing, as in other disciplines, finding people to admire and imitate is essential. Get your surf nerd on!

More on Rell Sunn
An article by Rell in the Honolulu Star Bulletin
Heart of the Sea on PBS
Rell's Website

More on Dave Parmenter
Dave’s Website
Encyclopedia of Surfing Entry
An interview with Dave by Pilgrim Surf + Supply

  Aleutian Juice Surfboards in Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Brooklyn.

Aleutian Juice Surfboards in Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Brooklyn.

  Aleutian Juice Surfboards in Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Brooklyn.

Aleutian Juice Surfboards in Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Brooklyn.