Pro surfers use healing power of ocean to help kids with Cystic Fibrosis

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Several professional surfers stopped by Haleiwa Alii Beach Park on Saturday to surf with children suffering from a debilitating disease. 

The Mauli Ola Foundation, which means breath of life, was founded 10 years ago.

Their mission? Help kids suffering from cystic fibrosis. 

“Cystic Fibrosis is a pulmonary lung disease where mucus builds up in the lungs and the salt air in the ocean—the little mist on top after a wave breaks— they actually breathe that in and it helps them expel [the mucus]. So it’s a natural therapy for a genetic disorder,” said Mauli Ola founder and president James Dunlop. 

Although treatment has advanced over the years, there is still no cure for Cystic Fibrosis. Most people with the genetic disease are diagnosed by the age of two. Some undergo daily treatment and are in and out of hospitals. 

“Every year I like to come down and take some kids surfing and share the love of the ocean and see it’s actual natural healing powers and how it really helps these kids,” said professional surfer Eli Olson.

“This is my favorite thing ever to see these kids who’ve been hospitalized and sad and to see them so happy out there,” said professional surfer Koa Rothman. “Some of the doctors say they haven’t seen them smile in three months and they come out here and they can’t stop smiling and they’re having a great time with friends, it’s just a really beautiful thing.”

The Mauli Ola Foundation isn’t just based in Hawaii, the foundation travels across the US and Australia, making hospital visits and hosting other surf experience days.

Each year, the groups tour begins in Waikiki. This year they went to Australia, California, New York, North Carolina, Florida and Texas, and ended at Haleiwa. 

Jacob Veneitti has cystic fibrosis and has been following Mauli Ola for seven years. He came to Saturday’s event from North Carolina. 

“It’s a natural therapy, the salt air breaks up mucus,” Veneitti said. “It keeps me active, helps me have something to get up and look forward to every day.”

“[Mauli Ola Foundation] has encouraged me to talk about having cystic fibrosis and being open about it, and to be a role model for others,” he said. 

“It’s a feeling you can’t explain, you feel so blessed to be apart of it and help these kids it really makes you appreciate everything you have,” Olson said.

The Mauli Ola Foundation will host a benefit concert at Turtle Bay Resort on Friday, Dec. 7. 

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