Kupuna Life: Surfboard artist spreads aloha through painting

Kupuna Life

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Jeannie Chesser tunes out negative vibes and focuses on the surfboard in front of her for hours at a time.

She has been a surfboard artist for decades — painting and airbrushing her designs.

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Chesser said, the process is therapeutic for her.

“It’s kind of therapeutic, get in the zone, turn on music, I go with the flow. If someone tells me do whatever with the board, I’ll put the board on the rack and I’ll look at it and something will come to me and “this will look good.'”

Jeannie Chesser, surfboard artist

She first started in the 1970s when someone asked her to airbrush their surfboard. It snowballed from there and she found herself doing designs for Hawaiian Island Crateions, Local Motion and Ben Aipa. Her passion for surfboards, however, began in the ocean long before then.

“It feels so good to be immersed in water, it’s a wonderful feeling,” Chesser said.

Chesser began surfing when she lived in Florida. She won numerous titles, the first was in 1965.

“That’s the main thing that helped me is surfing,” Chesser said. “If I didn’t have surfing, there would be hell to pay because it does calm me.”

It has helped her through some of the toughest times in her life, including the loss of her only child, Todd.

“He [Todd] was riding the big waves and then that was the big day at Waimea and he decided to go to Alligators, less people,” Chesser said.

The pro surfer died that day.

“And to this day, it will never go away,” Chesser said, “it’s just being able to cope with it, it does get a little better.”

Being in the ocean has also helped her cope with the loss of her good friend, surfer Rell Sunn, who inspired Chesser to compete. Chesser has also battled breast and skin cancer and believes the ocean and a positive attitude lifted her spirits.

“So now I’m footloose and fancy free,” Chesser said.” I’m surfing, teaching Zumba, just trying to love life and try to keep a sense of humor about everything because if you don’t laugh, you’re going to cry, every day.”

She chooses surfing, art and a lot of humor to brighten her days. It is a therapeutic combination that she will continue for as long as she can.

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