Joe Surf: Breathe in that misty salt air for kids

July 06, 2011|By Joe Haakenson
  • Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong, left, and Judy Burlingham, co-founder of Pipeline to a Cure, stand for a picture at the event. Armstrong's son is the drummer for Emily's Army, a band that will play at the event.
Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong, left, and Judy… (Bel Air Photography,…)

Next time you're out there, straddling your board, waiting for the next set, take a long, deep breath.

Appreciate it.

On Aug. 6, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will hold its fourth annual Pipeline to a Cure gala at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa in Huntington Beach, a fundraising effort to help find a cure for the debilitating disease that affects 30,000 children and adults in the country.

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disease that causes mucus to build up and clog some of the organs in the body, particularly the lungs and pancreas. The average life span of someone with CF is the mid-30s.

So what does CF have to do with surfing? Quite a bit, it turns out.

Just a few years ago, there were some doctors in Australia who specialized in cystic fibrosis and noticed there was a group of their patients who seemed to be doing better than others. They tried to figure out what the patients had in common and finally had their answer.



"These kids all surfed," said Michael Shumard, executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. "They did their research and found that when they were out there on the water, they'd breath in that misty, salty air, and it lubricated their lungs."

Breathing clearly is a big problem with CF, and when the kids would come in from a surf, they could more easily clear the mucus, and it settled their airways. The findings resulted in the development of what's called "hypertonic saline" treatments, which mimic breathing in that salty air.

And that's great, but surely these kids would rather get on a board than suck on an inhaler.

"Coming out of Orange County, the surf capital of America, we talked with surf companies and volunteers," Shumard said. "The surfing community has completely embraced us."

That's where Pipeline to a Cure comes in. The gala raises the money — $1.3 million in the first three galas — but for the kids, it's all about the surfing. Pipeline to a Cure has gotten support from Huntington Beach Surf School and Newport Surf Camp, which donate their services to get the kids on boards and out in the water.

They are in the process of scheduling several surf days throughout the summer as they've been waiting for the water to warm up, according to Shumard.

The benefit of getting in the water is more than just what it does for the kids physically. The mental and emotional benefits are immeasurable.

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