Jeannie & Todd Chesser
Jeannie Chesser was born in Miami Florida and started surfing South Beach Miami in 1964. She won her first contest in 1965. Graduate of Miami Edison High, she married David Chesser in 67, her son Todd was born in 1968, and surfing no longer the main focus of her life. Todd was only 2 when David died in a car crash in 1970. Todd and Jeannie moved to Cocoa Beach briefly before packing up and leaving Florida behind in search of more perfect waves in Hawaii. That was 1971.
Jeannie and Todd lived at Sunset Beach, Kailua, and eventually a house in Kaimuki where they lived since 1973. Jeannie painted surfboards from the mid-70’s and she and Todd enjoyed surfing and competing in the amateur contests in Hawaii. Todd was the NSSA and HAS Jr. and Men’s champion in 85-86, and Jeannie won many contests in the females division, and was named Sr. Female Athlete of the year in 86. She was US Champ in 92.
Todd turned Pro and traveled the world. He was named 1989 Rookie of the Year on the Bud Pro tour and he won the PSAA Hawaii event in 1990 at Makaha. Todd enjoyed (or endured) many miles of traveling on the Pro tour with limited sponsorship, while Jeannie stayed in Hawaii working 3 jobs so both could be able to surf. Todd was never one to try to get his photo in the mags. But his talent was noticed and Todd began to enjoy video trips to exotic places like Indo, Tahiti, Fiji, Chile, S. Africa, Madeira, and a heli-snowboarding trip to Canada. He also wrote articles for major surf mags.
Todd was well-known for his bravado in big surf away from crowds at North shore big-wave spots. He was stoked to have surfed the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, but he was an experienced seeker of giant wave spots not ruined by huge crowds, gangs of photographers and dreaded jet-skis.
And so it was on February 13, 1997, that Todd and a couple of his close bros sought out an empty big waves surf spot away from Waimea Bay, called Alligators. Todd lost his life that day in some serious large waves.
Todd has many great friends and family. Those people have helped Jeannie get through this. A wonderful dream-like surfspot in Fiji named Tavarua has also helped her. Surfing gives her a reason to wake up in the morning. She is totally immersed in all aspects of the sport. Competitor, contest judge, Triple Crown contest announcer, surf reporter, surfboard artist/airbrusher. She still enters and wins surf contests.
Jeannie's paintings reflect incredibly perfect waves. Sea life and florals are also favorite subjects. Her beautiful artful jewelry reflects the ocean with use of shells, pearls, and turtle shapes. “It’s totally therapeutic to work with beads, jewelry, and silver. That people like my stuff enough to buy, is certainly a bonus. I know my art is not going to change the world, it’s not earth-shattering. But I hope it cheers people or just gives them something pleasant to look at, " Todd’s mana (spirit) lives on in me and my art.”
Todd with his mom Jeannie