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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Like Matt Warshaw and Drew Kampion, Stuart Coleman (the author of Eddie Would Go) is fast becoming one of today's best chroniclers of surfing history, heritage and culture. In his latest book Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing, Holmes puts his extensive research talents to work in order to pay homage to Makaha on O'ahu's wild West Side. In order to capture the essence of Makaha, Coleman relies upon the rich histories of three Makaha legends: the Keaulana family, Rell Sun and Bruddah Iz. While all three subjects symbolize both the shared and unique parts of the Makaha spirit, it's the Keaulana clan, and patriarch Buffalo in particular, that serves as the story's soul. Throughout Coleman's descriptions of Rell and Iz's triumphs and tragic ends, Buffalo and the rest of the Keaulanas are there, providing warmth, guidance, support and, of course, food. Coleman's attention to detail delivers extensive quotes and anecdotes from legendary watermen like Greg Noll, Melvin Pu'u, Ricky Grigg and Peter Cole. While parts of the stories and descriptions appear overly romanticized, Fierce Heart generally provides a deep and honest look at Hawaii, Hawaiians and surfing. This book is a great summer beach read. [...]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2010
This was the first ever "surfing genre" type book I've ever read. Not one to pick up a surf mag and peruse around its pages, I think that I might be inclined to do so after reading this book. The descriptions of the people, the culture, and the surf events and daring rescues of the life guards made for quick reading that made me feel as if I were in Makaha enjoying the wonderful personalities and beautiful places Coleman describes. In surfing it seems art and life are fused on the moving canvas of the ocean. This book reiterates what is important in this life. It will make you laugh, and it will make you cry. I totally urge anyone who has even the remotest curiosity about surfing, Hawaii, and what is important in life to pick it up.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2009
I wanted to read this book because of Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing and thought it was a super interesting history of the wild westside. I didn't grow up on the westside, but know people who have grown up surfing over there and have some intense stories.

I think this is a good book for any surfer to read to learn a little history of the place, especially if you surf over there nowadays as things are way mellower. But hey, I guess if you grew up surfing Makaha and living the westside, there might not be much in this book for you, but for the rest of us I think it's a good buy.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2009
Just finished reading Fierce Heart. I ripped through it -- a fascinating, very detailed history of some of HI's finest. A huge accomplishment and a huge contribution to the people of da islands. A very sensitive, even-handed look at people and subjects near and dear to all residents and friends of Hawaii Nei. I can well imagine kids growing up on Da Coast reading this book and looking at their neighbors and heroes with newfound respect and aloha.
Bravo and Mahalo!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2009
Stuart Holmes Coleman is a somewhat rare individual in today's modern hybrid `pop-culture' dominated Hawaiian society: a surfer who is also a gifted creative writer of appreciable note.

Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Coleman completed his undergraduate degree in that state before relocating to Los Angeles and working briefly as an arts editor for an LA entertainment magazine. Thereafter he returned to the East Coast of the US and pursued a graduate degree in literature (creative writing) at American University.

In 1993 Stuart moved to Hawaii, motivated by the other primary passion in his life, surfing. Once in the islands, he quickly became interested in Oahu's legendary Waimea Bay waterman Eddie Aikau and was inspired to begin writing a book about him. While working on his book, Coleman taught English at Honolulu's Punahou School, and later at Iolani School, befriending big-wave riders Fred Van Dyke and Peter Cole (also former Punahou faculty alumni) in the process.

Upon undertaking his first book, Coleman was introduced by Cole and Van Dyke to the Aikau `ohana and many other important local Oahu figures, with whom he become good friends while conducting his researches. After completing three years of intensive work on Eddie Aikau's life, the book was finally published as `Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero'. This carefully composed and culturally balanced biography served to allow him to gain substantial access to Oahu's somewhat xenophobic West Coast culture after interviewing many of the locals in the Waianae area, and some years later he was able to further draw upon these contacts to begin a new book on the unique and often extraordinary Hawaiian people populating the Makaha area.

As an epicenter of the resurgence of modern Hawaiian he'e nalu (surfing), the story of Makaha (which means `fierce' in Hawaiian) has been captured in an intriguing narrative that gives many empathetic insights into the nature of the diversely distinctive local Hawaiians who are residents on this part of Oahu. Figuring centrally in this book are the principal members of the Keaulana `ohana, among them patriarch Buffalo and his son Brian, as well as other noted local Hawaiians such as Iz Kamakawiwo'ole, and champion surfer and waterwoman Rell Kapolioka'ehukai Sunn.

With this book, Stuart Coleman has accomplished what has been missing for decades: an empathetic and balanced examination of the core culture of one of Oahu's most important, yet highly convoluted local areas. He has also prepared a book that finally helps to honor the memory of Rell Sunn, widely known as `The Queen of Makaha' and perhaps one of the most extraordinary women ever to grace modern island culture. Although many younger Hawaiians may not today remember Auntie Rell and recognise the importance of her life as an exemplar of the traditional spirit of aloha, renown waterwoman, proponent of breast cancer awareness (she sadly succumbed to that disease herself in 1998), and extraordinarily inspired supporter of Hawaiian keiki (children), her compelling story has long deserved to be formally recorded. While not entirely about Rell, Coleman's new book on the fierce local Makaha culture that produced her is at least a starting point that may hopefully inspire a fuller chronicling of her story at some future date.

Writing in a comfortable, highly readable and skillfully engaging manner, Stuart Coleman's passionate interest in he'e nalu culture and the sport of surfing has enabled him to develop portrayals of the central individuals in his book with awareness and keen insight that someone not intimately involved with surfing might not possess.

Along with his first book on Eddie Aikau's life, Stuart's latest book, `FIERCE HEART', deserves to be read by all who are interested in the modern expressions of ancient Hawaiian culture and by those who wish greater understanding of the tragic loss of the sacred Hawaiian `aina (lands) to malihini (outside) interests, over the past one hundred and fifty years.

As Coleman points out, although modern Makaha has a `rep' as a tough and turbulent local area, popularly characterised as being torn by domestic problems, plagued with rampant homelessness, devastating substance abuse excesses and frequent occasions of violence, Makaha's story is also a key to understanding both the clash of traditional Hawaiian cultural elements with modern outside influences and the nobler, more ancient values that are still honored and so admirably maintained by many of its residents.

`FIERCE HEART: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing' definitely belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who appreciates and respects the uniquely rich cultural heritage of the Hawaiian Islands, next to Coleman's wonderful earlier work on the life of Eddie Aikau. Both of these books may be easily found at all internet book sellers, including Amazon.

The only apparent deficiency associated with Coleman's books is unavoidably inherent and stems from the fact that he is a haole malihini (a white outsider, and a fairly recent arrival at that), whose racial ethnicity will effectively bar a fully congruent understanding of kanaka maoli culture (no matter how empathetic it may be). It is also apparent that Coleman's writing on Hawaii and the Hawaiians, like that of many other haoles who dream of and emulate an idyllic culture that is ultimately unattainable (by virtue of having white skin), is unavoidably partisan in the expression of its principal sentiments. It will be a substantial advancement when a local Hawaiian (kanaka maoli or kama'aina), rather than an empathetic outsider who by necessity observes and reports from the perspective of an external observer, finally rises to the task of analysing local Hawaiian culture from within.

That having been stated, it is perhaps not overstating things to say that Coleman has come about as close to gauging the primal pulse of archetypal local Hawaiian culture with his two books as any recently arrived haole malihini has in decades. I highly recommend both of these books to all of you as useful (and enjoyable) reference, since there is really so little else available on modern Hawaiian local culture.

Aloha mai e, Kalikiano....
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2009
It's not easy to write about the Waianae Coast, one of the most complex and troubled corners of a paradise state that promotes easy sunshine living. It's a place full of myths and legends, heroes and villains, hope and despair.

In his second book, Coleman rises to the challenge of demystifying the West Side. He tells human stories of the most revered West side figures: Buffalo Keaulana, Rell Sunn, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, the extended Keaulana clan. Through the words, thoughts, and struggles of these Hawaiians, we begin to understand the raw spirit of this special Hawaiian coast.

Coleman took a risk in writing this book, just as he did in his fine biography of Eddie Aikau. In order to create a valuable record of the coast and not just a hagiography, he had to portray the tribulations as much as the successes of Wainae's favorite children. With respect for his subjects as well as the truth, Coleman truly enlightens the reader about the Sons and Daughters of Makaha. To those who who want to create myths about modern day heroes, this truth-telling may be uncomfortable. To those who want to know about the remarkable people of the Wainae Coast, and how they have braved crime, poverty, and exclusion to develop an authentic and modern Hawaiian lifestyle, this book can be a revelation.
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on January 22, 2010
A lot of surf lit focuses on the North Shore, or the Malibu, or the Mavericks 'scene'. Fierce Heart shines a light on a far more interesting story - Oahu's 'Wild Westside' of Makaha, and the very special characters who live there. One thing of interest to me is Coleman's peculiar 'oral history' style - there IS a bit of repetition and certain anecdotes occasionally reappear as though they've been cut and pasted - but somehow this actually adds a greater aura of authenticity to the story telling. This is an excellent story for people who want to know the role of surfing in Hawaiian culture and to dig deeper than the tourist brochure cliches that often gloss over deeper social issues. I have to say, though, I'm not still not sure if I'd rent a car and go out and linger for very long. Best to just leave 'em alone; they don't need more haoles crowding their beaches.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2009
What can i say about Coleman's follow up to the captivating Eddie Would Go but mahalo. With so much focus on North Shore surfing in the popular press the story of surfing on the west side (Makaha) and the flourishing of the true Hawaiian spirit is bedrock for anyone who loves the ocean.
Get the book, read it, think about it and then pass it on. ALOHA!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Coleman is a great writer and story teller. I knew Rell Sunn when we were both on the national board of the Surfrider Foundation. It was a colorful period of Hawai'ian history. I didn't think I would be interested in "Eddie Would Go!," but I bought it at the airport. It was a great book and it inspired me to read the next one.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
[This Review is from my blog, [...]]

Doing this 

Doing this Saltwater Buddha tour, I've felt a little saturated with surf book talk. In-fact, I've been on a bit of surf lit boycott. Nothing against them, it's just that in my little spare reading time, I've wanted to curl up with fantasy novels that make me dream of wizards and fairies rather than Amazon rankings. But waiting for my computer to reboot one day, Stuart Coleman's new book, Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing,
was lying in front of me, so I started to read. Now I'm immersed.
Stuart has transported me happily back to Hawaii - the sights, the sounds, the smells. Following the charismatic icons of Oahu's rugged westside surf scene - people like Brother Iz, Rell Sun, Buffalo Keaulana and his sons Rusty and Brian - Stuart captures the spirit of the Hawaiian people in a way that makes you look at a place you may think you know with fresh eyes. Passages like this one, where Brian Keaulana is explaining the origins of the term "Aloha" to Stuart, keep popping up and making want to dig deeper.

"When people come to Hawaii, they hear people say, `Aloha,'" Brian says. "But they don't really understand the kauna, which is like the meaning." He explained that alo is like the leaf of the taro plant and signifies the human face, and ha is like the breath of life. "The Hawaiians used to put their heads together and exchange breaths. So ha is like Chinese chi or Japanese ki. When greeting each other or departing, they would touch foreheads and exchange breaths. "Aloha is enveloping someone with your whole essence or aura. It's understanding the true essence of yourself and giving it to others." Rell once defined aloha as "giving and giving until you have nothing left to give," and she said this was the fate of the Hawaiian people.

That last sentence, "giving until you have nothing left to give" has stuck with me. Like the Native Americans, the Hawaiians were so generous to their colonizers that they nearly vanished. Hearing how it happened makes you realize why Hawaii has an angry side, but seeing how Hawaiians like the Keaulanas, Rell, and IZ have channeled that anger into art, surfing, and just plain do-gooding, maintaining Aloha in the face of so many challenges - is inspirational. Any book that got me to break my surf reading fast has got to be good. I definitely recommend it. Thanks Stuart!
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