Waterwoman Keanuenue Rochlen
By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Staff Writer
Keanuenue Rochlen, who sewed the first pair of Jams surf trunks for her husband's now-famous surf shop and competed in nearly every state canoe-paddling championship since 1952, died Jan. 28. She was 81.
A memorial service and scattering of ashes will be held March 1 at the Outrigger Canoe Club, where Rochlen took her daily swims and was a stalwart steerswoman for the club's padding crews.
"My mother never left the ocean. She was always in the water. She took a dip every day, and she would pick limu off the beach, and during paddling season she would be practicing," said daughter Nohea Kaipoleimanu Rochlen.
"She lived life to the fullest. Mom went full-throttle."
At the 2002 Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association state regatta, Rochlen was honored for competing in the very first championship 50 years earlier when she was a member of the Waikiki Surf Club.
"Every year I quit — I say I can't do it anymore. Then, before you know it, I'm back out there again," Rochlen told The Advertiser at the time.
Her last canoe race was the August 2009 state championships in Hilo.
"They don't make them like her any more. She was a modest original," said friend and paddler Gerri Pedesky. "She was a fabulous steers-woman who had a way of doing it that was unlike anyone else. If we were tied coming into a turn, we knew we would come out ahead."
Rochlen was born Jan. 29, 1928, into a family of athletes and watermen. Her uncle was famed ocean lifeguard Aloha Kaeo.
She was a top swimmer for McKinley High School before graduating in 1946, and surfed wooden boards at Mäkaha at a time when few women did so.
Her late husband, Dave Rochlen, a surfer from Santa Monica, Calif., opened the Surf Line Hawaii shop on Pi'ikoi Street in 1964. Using eye-popping graphic floral fabrics, they created the iconic knee-length Jams shorts, a sort of beach pajama that evolved into the Jams World casual clothing line.
Dave Rochlen died in 2003, and son Pua Rochlen now heads the company.
Daughter Nohea said her mother, who was rarely seen — even at night — without her trademark sunglasses, was a humble, private person who "didn't mince words" and was quick with biting one-liners.
She also was an avid tennis player and accomplished quilter who signed her pieces with her initials and a rainbow, a symbol of her Hawaiian name.
In addition to Pua and Nohea, Rochlen is survived by daughters Haunani and Mapuana "Kootchie" Kekai, son Mark Alika Rochlen, brother William Kaeo and 10 grandchildren.
Memorial donations may be sent to the Keanuenue Rochlen Fund at the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, 350 Ward Ave., Suite 106, Honolulu, HI 96814.