Staff photo by Emmy Errante
Jackson Lindsey catches a wave with the help of Hawaiian surfing champion Sunny Garcia at the Mauli Ola Foundation’s Ben Bourgeois Surf Experience Day for patients with cystic fibrosis on Sunday, Aug. 11 at Wrightsville Beach.
The Mauli Ola Foundation (MOF) came to Wrightsville Beach last weekend as part of its Surf Experience Day tour. It brought with it a big gray van that could be seen parked in the King Neptune’s parking lot, along with professional surfers including Ben Bourgeois and Sunny Garcia.
MOF kicked the weekend off Friday night with an outdoor party next to King Neptune’s featuring a reggae band. The party raised around $10,000 for the foundation’s cause, said Kala Alexander, MOF vice president and pro surfer from Hawaii.
The foundation is aptly named because Mauli Ola means “breath of life” in Hawaiian and cystic fibrosis, the most common fatal genetic disease in the United States, primarily affects the lungs. The salinity levels present in the air and in ocean water is conducive to reducing congestion in the airways of those afflicted with CF. It is this congestion that leads to numerous inconvenient and costly hospital visits and the need to take medication. MOF thereby aims to alleviate these hardships for children with CF and their families through surfing.
On Sunday, the pros spent the day in the water and on the beach at Birmingham Street. They took time to speak with families, sign autographs and guide kids into therapeutic waves.
“Our main goal is to put smiles on these kids’ faces. We want to get them hooked on surfing so they can live healthy lives,” Alexander said after riding a wave all the way into shore with a young boy atop his shoulders.
Conditions were near perfect for a Surf Experience Day; there were few clouds in the sky, tents provided shade and the ocean gave respite from more than just the heat to children with CF learning to surf. Alexander explained that the foundation, started by two friends of his, wanted to involve pro surfers to gain notoriety and exposure for the disease.
“They hear a lot about certain diseases because they own a diagnostic laboratory,” Alexander said. “They came across some articles that said kids in Hawaii and Australia with cystic fibrosis were a lot healthier because they surfed.”
Since its creation seven years ago, MOF has taught 1,700 kids with CF how to surf. To expand and become self-sufficient, MOF has developed a clothing line in conjunction with Eastern Surf Supply.
“We want to raise our own money so we can have even more resources so we can help even more kids,” Alexander said.
Surf Experience Days will happen next in Washington D.C. and New Jersey.
For more information on cystic fibrosis and the foundation, visit www.mauliola.org