Cystic fibrosis is a harsh genetic condition of the lungs affecting over 70,000 people worldwide. The life expectancy of those who suffer is around 40, but it is not uncommon to live fewer than 20 years.
However, in 2004, Australian doctors found that sufferers who surf recreationally tend to breathe easier than those who don’t. Further studies have continued to display similar trends: “They saw a big difference in a lot of things: in pulmonary function, in need for hospitalisation, in how well they felt,” commented pulmonary specialist Dr Bruce Nickerson in regard to saline treatment.
Such discoveries have led to the creation of surfing camps and charities for children suffering with the disorder, one such family taking advantage of this is the Montelones. The Montelones are a family of five, three of whom (8-year-old Gavin, 10-year-old Brooke and 12-year-old Michael) were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2008. Mauli Ola, which means “breath of life” in Hawaiian, is one such group practicing this therapy. With the assistance of professional surfers such as Kelly Slater and Josh Baxter, about 2,000 patients have learned to surf.
“We have found the silver lining to it all and that has been through surfing,” said mother Paulette Montelone, “It’s helping them breathe better… but it’s also helping us, as a family, enjoy something together.”
While the scare of the disorder is still continually present, eldest son Michael says he tries to keep it in the back of his head so that he can keep moving through the days. What better way to do that than with surfing?