Makaha literally means “fierce,” and this community represents the heart of the Hawaiian culture. Surrounded by jagged green mountains on one side and a powerful blue sea on the other, the small town of Makaha has produced some the most talented watermen in the world and Hawaii’s biggest icons. Fierce Heart is the biography of their community and a portrait of their people. Starting with the rise of the Makaha International Surf Classic and Hawai’i’s statehood in 1959, the story focuses on two generations of the Keaulana clan, one of surfing’s most famous families. After winning the Makaha International in 1960, Buffalo Keaulana sailed on the maiden voyage of the Hokule’a in 1976 and went on to become one of Hawaii’s legendary surfers, lifeguards and community leaders. His legacy has only grown with his sons and extended family in Makaha.
Along with being an accomplished lifeguard, big-wave surfer and Hollywood stuntman, Brian Keaulana pioneered the use of jet skis to perform rescues and revolutionized ocean safety in the process. His brother Rusty won three world longboarding championships in a row. Rell Sunn and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole were like older siblings, and they became the stars of Makaha during their short, but brilliant lives. Sistah Rell was Hawai’i’s first female lifeguard, a pioneer in women’s professional surfing and a community activist. Starting out with the Makaha Sons and then going on his own, Bruddah Iz eventually became the biggest artist in Hawai’i and the voice of the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement. Like shooting stars, Rell and Iz blazed a bright trail in the Hawaiian sky, but their lives burned out all too soon. On the 50th anniversary of statehood (and Israel’s birth), Fierce Heart chronicles the history of Hawai’i’s wild Westside and the enduring legacy of its leaders.
Reviews of Fierce Heart:
“The spiritual home at the traditional, ocean-based culture of Oʻahu’s West Side is at Makaha, where the bonds of community have been nurtured and tested by the surf. Stuart Coleman gracefully guides us into this world with respect and heart.”
—Drew Kampion, author of Stoked!, The Lost Coast, and Greg Noll: The Art of the Surf Board
“If your favorite armchair-travel fantasy is like mine—turn off the main road, switch into four-wheel drive, and suddenly there’s the Great Good Place—here’s a trip worth taking. Stuart Coleman’s sincere interest got him into the inner circle of that Hawaiʻi that most tourists never see, and he delivers astonishingly intimate portraits of the West Side’s surfers, singers, and sea goddesses. Fierce Heart turns local legends into legitimate heroes.”
—Jesse Kornbluth, editor of HeadButler.com and cocreator of Bookreporter.com
“The author of Eddie Would Go has crafted another masterpiece of insight, detail, and sensitivity to the Hawaiian culture. Having made dozens of surfing trips to Makaha over the years, I’ve experienced both the warmth and distrust of its proud residents, and I always felt they were gravely misunderstood. Coleman tells the exquisite truth with remarkable depth.”
—Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, and Surfer magazine sports columnist, author of North Shore Chronicles
“Fierce Heart shines a light onto the world’s best-known, least understood surf break.”
—Matt Warshaw, author of Maverick’s and The Encyclopedia of Surfing
“Be warned, this edgy fast-paced book is like surfing a Makaha wave—once you take off, there’s not turning back. Once you start reading Fierce Heart, you will be unable to put it down. Fierce Heart’s wisdom will linger with you for a very long time, and you will never look back at you own life the same way again.
—Sandra Kimberly Hall, author of Duke: A Great Hawaiian
“Fierce Heart is a powerful tribute to the Queen of Makaha. The stories in the book capture my mom’s spirit of aloha and her dedication to helping others. At the Rell Sunn Educational Fund, we are committed to continuing her legacy, and this book will help keep her spirit alive for years to come.”
—Jan Sunn-Carreira, Rell Sunn Educational Fund
“During the swift reading of this book you will enjoy more than one hundred insider stories of the wild West Side. It’s as if you are sitting in the shade of Uncle Buff’s lifeguard tower as the waves roll in and the bruddahs talk story. What Coleman did for Aikau, he has now done for the legends of the West Side. He has bravely and honestly reported the stories of these people, who have likewise bravely and honestly offered the truth….The long wait for his second book is justified, and Coleman can now consider himself a mythmaker of sorts.”
—Big Island Weekly
“An impressive effort, full of information and anecdotes…an enjoyable read, packed with tales about wild times and practical jokes.”