“It’s all about the kids,” said Hawaiian waterman Kala Alexander. The influential surfer, actor and leader of the Wolfpak is notorious for protecting the local breaks and enforcing respect in the North Shore lineup. The proud team captain of Da Hui is also a professional surfer for GoPro, …Lost and Dakine, and has deep roots on the islands as a native from Kauai, now residing at Sunset Beach on Oahu with his family. His relationship with the ocean gives him an ultimate appreciation for surfing that he shares with many of Hawai’i’s big wave chargers. While he may look tough on the outside, Kala has a sweet spot for the community, especially for struggling families in Hawai’i.
For the past few years, his entire heart and energy have been dedicated to a very special organization that is moving mountains and making waves across the surf industry. The Mauli Ola Foundation has a mission to improve the lives of children with genetic diseases. While their main focus is on kids with cystic fibrosis, Mauli Ola wanted to expand their reach for a special event with Families Can*Sur*Vive, an American Cancer Society Hawai’i Pacific region program for families who have battled or are currently battling cancer.
I had the honor and pleasure of joining the foundation at Bellow’s Beach on Oahu for a special Surf Day with the Families Can*Sur*Vive American Cancer Society program.
Smack dab in the middle of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing week, Kala was impressively able to gather some of the most talented athletes in surf together as volunteers for this special day, all whom graciously gave up a day of surfing the North Shore in order to join Kala and the Mauli Ola crew. Volunteers included: Red Bull’s Jamie O’Brien, Volcom’s Alex Gray, Rockstar Energy’s Sunny Garcia, Vans’ Nathan Fletcher, Body Glove’s Ezekiel Lau, Sanuk’s Torrey Meister, Oakley’s Kai Barger, …Lost’s Shane Beschen, and Mauli Ola’s Shawn “Barney” Barron and Nathan Hedge.
Kala Alexander explained the difficulties that Hawaiian families face to afford hospital bills. The Mauli Ola Foundation began as a group of surfers who banded together to introduce surfing as a natural treatment to people with cystic fibrosis. As one of the most common diseases amongst children, life expectancies are short – but guess what helps these kids… surfing! Not only from the thrill of catching a wave, saline treatments have proven to lengthen the lives of people with cystic fibrosis. The salt water reduces the mucus buildup in the lungs, helping a surfer to breathe easier and live healthier. If you can get these kids addicted to surfing, they will indeed live longer.
In addition to physical benefits, surfing has proven to release stress and creates a positive environment for families. Thus, Mauli Ola was excited to join up with the Families Can*Sur*Vive program organized by the American Cancer Society, to introduce the benefits of surfing to even more kids.
In the Hawaiian language, Mauli Ola translates to ‘Breath of Life.’ The smiles on the faces of these kids learning to surf made an impression that will live on forever in the hearts of all the participants.
The power of surfing is endless… and Mauli Ola has found a way to spread the word and help families in need. Since 2007, Mauli Ola has taken nearly 1,300 CF patients surfing at nearly 100 Surf Experience Days and has now expanded it’s reach with hospital visits and other activities that touch the lives of kids with cancer and a variety of other health challenges. The Surf Days are just as special for the kids as they are for the volunteers, and life-changing for the families involved. This one with the Families Can*Sur*Vive program was extra special as it benefited children who have or have had cancer.
Chief Staff Officer for the American Cancer Society Hawai’i Pacific Division, Jackie Young, Ph.D, was kind enough to speak with The Surf Channel on the sand of Bellows. She explained the struggles of an increasing rate of childhood cancer, and the importance of living an active lifestyle to reduce risks of obesity, diabetes, and strengthen the immune system.
“Surfing is deeply rooted in the spirit of Aloha,” Jackie told us. “These families are struggling with so much just to get through the day… It’s amazing for Mauli Ola to come dedicate their time like this. And it’s very special for the kids, as it is for their families.”
Surfing is a way for these families to bond in a positive and beautiful setting outside of the hospital walls, to recognize the beauty of spending each and every day together. It was the first time in months Jackie had seen a smile on some of the kids’ faces, even more emotional for the parents to watch their sons and daughters laugh and play again, like kids should.