Rell Sunn Award

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A special award was established in 1998 to honor the memory of Rell Kapolioka’ehukai Sunn, the “First Lady of Surfing.” Rell was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 32 and given only months to live. Rather than submitting to the disease and giving up on life, Rell did exactly the opposite, choosing to live life to its fullest. She passed away on January 2nd, 1998 at the age of 47. Rell came to the very first Cancer Center Luau and brought with her the aloha spirit.

Established in 1998 to honor the memory of Rell Sunn, the “Queen of Makaha,” this perpetual trophy is awarded each year to the person who displays the qualities shared by Rell and the Moores UC San Diego Cancer Center Luau & Legend of Surfing Invitational – who has made a difference in the battle against cancer and embodies the aloha spirit.

The Rell Sunn Award is presented at the Luau, August 19, 2018. View past award recipients below and contact us to submit a nomination for next year's award.


Photo by Tom Keck

2018 Rell Sunn Award Recipients

Dr. Ferrara

This year’s Rell Sunn Awardees are Howard Birndorf and Ivor Royston, MD, founders of the biotech industry in San Diego, California.  Dr. Royston and Birndorf founded San Diego's first biotech company in 1978, Hybritech, with the launch of the Prostate- Specific Antigen (PSA) Test.  In the process, they became the catalyst for one of the worl'ds largest biotech communities in the United States.  The company was subsequently bought by Eli Lilly and Company in 1986, and Birndorf went on to found a number of other successful companies including Gen-Probe and Ligand Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Royston is an oncologist, researcher, scientist, entrepreneur and venture capitalist, recognized for his efforts to develop treatments for multiple disease targets and to fund biotechnology companies with promising science, technology or medicines.

Past Awardees

2018 - Howard Birndorf & Ivor Royston, MD
- John Mendelsohn, MD
2016 - T. Denny Sanford
2015 - Carl June, MD
2014 - Napoleone Ferrara
2013 Kary Mullis
2012 Roger Tsien
2011 -  Dennis Carson
2010 Connie Matsui
2009 David Easter, MD
2008 - Doris Howell, MD
2007 Linda Olson, MD
2006 Georgia Robins-Sadler, MD
2005 David Tarin, MD, PhD
2004 Jon Greif, MD
2003 - Alex Szekely
2002 J. Craig Venter, PhD
2001 Mark Renneker, MD
2000 Charles “Chuck” Gorder, Sr.
1999 Dani Grady
1998 Bill Otterson

2013 Rell Sunn Awardee Dr. Kary Mullis, and Directory of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center Dr. Scott Lippman