Local Currents: A Drop in the Ocean


“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”Mother Teresa

Charles and James Dunlop, two brothers from Laguna Beach, have built an incredible business around DNA testing innovation. They deserve every penny they earn. But they come from a community that is about being bigger than oneself and so they find innovative ways to give back.

The Dunlaps give back through their Mauli Ola Foundation that focuses on helping people with genetic disorders, particularly cystic fibrosis (CF).

CF has no cure, but treatments and detection have radically changed the impact of the disease. In 1959, the average life expectancy for CF was six years among infants, while in 2008 average life expectancy has grown to over 37 years. There is real progress being made.

Hans Hagen, a local pro surfer competing in the ISF World Masters in Nicaragua this week, introduced me to Mauli Ola.

Mauli Ola recruits pro surfers to help young people with CF to ride waves in the ocean as a form of therapy. The aspirated salt air and water in the surfline acts as a natural treatment for CF. The saline air lubricates the airways, helping patients expel the sticky mucus that builds up in their lungs. It is a natural way to deliver a hypertonic saline treatment that children’s hospitals normally provide at CF clinics.

The results are more impressive than clinical outcomes.

When I was in Hawaii spending time with both the young people who suffer from CF and their families, it was inspiring to see the deep joy and appreciation that they receive from being around pro surfers and the exhilaration of riding waves.

Sitting on the deck one night with a father of two adult children, both who were progressing into later and terminal stages of CF, I was struck by the profundity that a bunch of surfers can offer the terminally ill through access to waves. While finding a cure is the ultimate hope for two of the people he loves most in life, the chance to surf gave them hope too. It wasn’t just simple therapy, but the raw courage to face what lay ahead.

I also watched some of the toughest and coolest guys in the world break down emotionally seeing the disease’s impact. Everyone seems to benefit from participating in Mauli Ola, whether it is the sufferers who gain therapy and courage or the surfers who possibly gain even more by assisting these souls.

VIP passes are still available for the Mauli Ola concert at the White House on July 26. http://www.mauliola.org. Other ways to contribute: Steven Chew is donating surf school proceeds at Thalia Street Beach on July 28 and Kalani Robb and Kelly Slater host a charity golf tournament at Pelican Hill on Aug. 30.

Mauli Ola hasn’t found a cure for cystic fibrosis, but when it comes to participating in the ocean of love, compassion, joy, and courage, I don’t want to miss a drop.


David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is [email protected].

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