Laird Hamilton and David Kalama launch down 70 foot walls of water, completing feats that leave other surfers speechless. Risking their lives for the perfect ride, their idols have always been surfers who conquer the ocean’s great force. That was until they met Emily, who surfs to survive. While they battle and conquer fierce elements by choice, the two legendary watermen now hold a new hero in their hearts – a young “surfer girl” with cystic fibrosis, Emily Haager.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease in which a defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clog the lungs and causes life threatening lung infections. It affects 30,000 children and adults in the United States and 70,000 worldwide.
When Emily was born, the median life expectancy of a person with cystic fibrosis was less than 18. (Due to fundraising efforts such as Pipeline to a Cure, the average life expectancy is age 37). Now at the age of 25, Emily stands strong against the odds of doctors’ predictions. She undergoes numerous therapies including four daily breathing treatments that clear her lungs for air passage. She also takes over a dozen pills per day to allow her to absorb the nutrients from the food she eats.
Although her life has consisted of one struggle after another, a shining smile breaks the barrier of any pain written across Emily’s face, thanks to a natural treatment she has enjoyed for the past three years – surfing. Emily is now the face for Pipeline to a Cure, a fundraising campaign recognizing the connection between surfing and the deadly genetic disease.
“I am really excited to be a part of Pipeline to a Cure and working with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation because there is so much hope ahead for cystic fibrosis. I fully believe that there will be a cure during my lifetime and I can’t wait to see it.”
The correlation between surfing and healing surfaced a few years ago when a doctor in Australia noticed that several of his patients with cystic fibrosis were in generally better health than his other CF patients. The common thread among his healthier patients was that they were all avid surfers. Investigating this connection, he discovered that the salty ocean mist actually helped to re-hydrate the lungs of those who surfed. The result of this discovery was the creation of a breathing treatment for those who have cystic fibrosis called Hypertonic Saline Solution, which mimics a “surf session” for the lungs. Cystic fibrosis patients throughout the world now inhale a mist of this specially mixed saltwater solution at least twice a day. The results have generally been a marked improvement in lung function and a significant reduction in hospitalizations for lung problems.
Dr. Scott Donaldson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill stated in an article on CNN.com on Jan. 19, 2006 that “surfers with cystic fibrosis had fewer lung exacerbations.” The lungs of patients who inhaled the saltwater, he added, became “re-hydrated by adding a layer of water to the airway surface. That acts as a lubricant, which makes it easier to clear the mucus.”
When Hamilton and Kalama met Haager this year they found a new heroine and now carry a new appreciation for their beloved sport. After a lifetime of receiving the benefits of the ocean and her perfect rides, they feel an eagerness to give back. They are now supporting Haager and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by recruiting other members from the surf industry for a benefit. Pacsun’s Pipeline to a Cure.
On the evening of July 19, Hamilton and Kalama will co-chair the PacSun’s Pipeline to a Cure Dinner Gala, an event at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach. “Our duties as co-chairmen are to help push the snowball over the hill,” Kalama explained. “We want to help raise as much awareness and get as many people on board as possible by being involved with this cause. Surfing has been so great to us and now it is our chance to give back.”
Expected attendees include some of the surfing world’s top stars – Mickey Munoz, Jericho Poplarand Gerry Lopez. Other extreme sports leaders are also jumping on board, including surfer Kelly Slater, skateboarder Tony Hawk and motocross rider Brock Glover.
Mike Sullivan, LACarGuy has donated a Prius for the opportunity drawing. Mike says that as a father and a surfer, the event represents two big points for me. Once I saw the video of Emily and learned about CF, it just cut through!” You just realize that sometimes you make take everything that you have and do for granted. I could not be more pleased to be involved”
Many of the silent and live auction items are “priceless” as the entire surf industry has gotten on board and donated many “epic” items.
To help raise funds, Laird and Dave are both offering one-on-one adventure days. The winning bidder of Laird’s package will spend a day stand-up paddling with Laird and receive a Hamilton Paddle. Dave’s package includes a three day Adventure Camp for four people in Maui with the winning bidder’s choice of surfing, canoeing, windsurfing,biking or stand-up paddling. Laird and Dave will also sign posters and memorabilia as auction items and leada panel discussion with other surf legends based on their “courage” of facing waves, personal health benefits from the ocean and the miracle of the CF connection to their sport.
Hamilton added, “To me, the healing aspect of surfing for CF patients makes perfect sense to me. I see what surfing has done for me with recharge, recovery and how it affects me personally. The lives of those with CF are cut way too short and they carry a horrible physical burden that none of us can imagine. This is why Dave and I want to participate in this cause, so that we can help raise money for additional medical research and hopefully find a cure.”
When speaking of health, wellness, and materializing his goals, Hamilton spoke with certainty as he offered advice., “You have to have faith. Believe it. Believe in it. Then with your relentless pursuit, no is not an option and you should never give up.
Visit www.pipeinetoacure.com or contact Colleen Ohiggins at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation l (714) 938-1393.